Rubio’s critics, who include some of his own supporters, are making two claims: first, that his ground game in the early states is weak, and second, that he himself isn’t spending enough time pressing the flesh in places like Iowa and New Hampshire, where voters expect to meet their candidates in person — sometimes multiple times – before going to the polls.
With regard to the latter claim, a few people have told me that since Rubio hasn’t targeted a single state for an early victory, as Ted Cruz has done in Iowa or Chris Christie has done in New Hampshire, Rubio may be being spending less time in each particular state, but he’s not doing less campaigning overall. I decided to look into that, and it appears to be untrue. It looks like Rubio really has spent less time on the ground in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina, though from here on out that’s sure to change. Many argue that his absence up until now will matter, though. There are a number of candidate trackers that measure the number of trips, days, and events candidates have spent or hosted in each early state. I’ve relied on several of them, but I’m using the graphs from U.S. News and World Report below.
Rubio has made fewer overall trips to the three early states than other candidates, 47 to Ted Cruz’s 58 and Donald Trump’s 55.
He has also made fewer trips to each individual state. In Iowa (see below), he’s made 18 visits and per the Des Moines Register spent 31 days on the ground and hosted 57 events. Cruz, who has invested a lot in Iowa, of course, has made 27 visits, and, again per the Register, spent 41 days on the ground and hosted 91 events. He even lags Trump, who’s largely run a national campaign, but who has made 23 visits to the Hawkeye State.
The stats for New Hampshire are below. There, it is Chris Christie who has dominated: He’s made 32 trips there, compared with Rubio’s 18 and Cruz’s 14. Per NECN’s New Hampshire candidate tracker, Rubio has made 40 stops in the state and Cruz has made 39.
In South Carolina, both Cruz and Trump have out-hustled Rubio: Cruz has made 17 trips, Trump 14, and Rubio 13.
Again, the various trackers measure slightly different things and as a result come out a bit differently, but overall it does look to me like Rubio has spent less time on the ground than his challengers. He’s making a bet this doesn’t matter, that national media, both paid and earned, debate performances, and top-notch candidate candidate skills are simply more important, and also that he can make an impression over the next six weeks, when it may matter most. We’ll see.