8.14.2016

Trump Needs a Ground Game

Last week I wrote:
The main concern I have is the ground game. Trump put zero effort into having a ground game in the primaries, he ran a skeleton campaign that pulled up stakes and left after the primary.

In order to win, Trump needs to have a massive ground game that drives his demographic to the polls. If that happens, he wins. If it doesn't, he loses.
Now this: In Key States, The Trump Campaign Still Lags Badly
With fewer than three months before Election Day, in the states that matter most, Donald Trump’s campaign is still barely operating field offices and running no television ads in key states.

On the ground, some are confused as to who is calling the shots — his campaign or Republican state and national organizations that have picked up the slack. In North Carolina, it’s not entirely clear where the campaign is headquartered. In Ohio and Pennsylvania, volunteers have opened makeshift field offices.

Some are advising that the Republican National Committee, which is running its planned robust field operation, cut off money to the Trump campaign and focus on other races — something that an RNC staffer acknowledged to BuzzFeed News could be a possibility.
The last part is Buzzfeed nonsense. The Trump campaign doesn't seem to understand basic politics though:
In key swing states like Florida, the campaign has been operating a bare-bones operation, with one office in Sarasota and four staff. The RNC currently has 75 staffers on the ground in Florida, as well as 1,400 volunteers and fellows in charge of local organizing.

“From the RNC’s perspective, if you’re looking at those states, we’ve been on the ground in those states since 2013,” said RNC spokesman Rick Gorka. “There was an early investment in the ground game to fix what went wrong [in 2012].”

Karen Giorno, the campaign’s chief Florida strategist, said that the operation will be expanding soon, and that the campaign is adding up to 25 more offices and is in the process of hiring 14 more full-time staff. The campaign is opening an office near the site of the Pulse shooting in Orlando, Bloomberg reported.

But Giorno sees less need for a traditional approach to the ground game because of Trump’s near-universal name recognition and the large attendance at his rallies, and she sounded confident about her approach when interviewed outside Trump’s Kissimmee rally last week. “I’m not big on bricks and mortar and office spaces because as you can see we have a very unique kind of campaign,” Giorno said. Giorno says she’s still relying on the large attendance at Trump’s rallies to reach voters. And she cited the campaign’s social media outreach, saying her team has a 100% response rate to social media queries from voters.

“This is the best type of outreach you can possibly have,” Giorno said of the rallies. “He’s touching over 40,000 people in two days.”

“I think we win this handily,” Giorno said. “I would be hard pressed to say that the Clinton campaign is doing anything to move the dial.”
The good news is the GOP has a ground game. The bad news is Trump is doing nothing to support it.

September is the line in the sand. After that it is too late to put together a ground game. Trump will be relying on the GOP GOTV effort and unless there are Trump people involved, they aren't going to target Democrats because they don't want them voting. If Trump is relying on crossover votes, he needs to identify those Democrats and Independents that lean Democrat, and turn them out.

North Carolina is a state where turnout of GOP voters is enough to win, and the GOP sounds like its in better shape according to Buzzfeed (I'm taking this all with the cursory grain of salt):
“In North Carolina, we have almost 50 paid staffers and more than 200 neighborhood team leaders across the state (in addition to the existing county and local party organizations and hundreds of volunteers across the state) — a number that grows everyday as our team members recruit and train more volunteers,” Woodhouse said. “Our team members function like paid organizers and field staff, as they commit to training, benchmarks, and hours of commitment each week to elect Mr. Trump and our Republican nominees in November.”

“Donald Trump started the general election with a head start on the ground because of the operation the RNC and the NCGOP has built,” Woodhouse said.

One key North Carolina Republican activist had a much less rosy view of the situation.

“It is less than to be desired,” the activist said. “I think the RNC is doing a really good job from a field program. They are taking a huge role. He’s also keeping it pretty lean. We’re going to see if this theory works.”
“You can’t just come to a rally once a week and go on CNN, that’s crazy,” the activist said.

A source of major concern to Republicans at this point is the campaign’s failure to run any ads. “I am far more worried about the lack of TV,” the North Carolina activist said.

Another Republican operative called the lack of advertising “very worrisome. At a certain point the fundamentals matter.”
The lack of TV one area Trump is right to hold back on. People won't pay attention until September, after Labor Day. Social media and earned media are a better strategy for now. If Trump is still running no ads in September and into October, then worry. I will be shocked and dismayed if there aren't ads with Jamiel Shaw and Patricia Smith.
Giorno, the Florida state director, said she expected ad spending from the campaign to start after this month. The Clinton campaign and the main super PAC supporting Clinton have already spent millions advertising in the state.

“We’re letting our powder dry till people come back from vacation,” Giorno said. “We’re going to spend as much as it requires.”

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