By Steven R. Maher
In the see-saw battle for the American presidency that has raged since the summer of 2016, Hillary Clinton is putting her faith in a well-organized effort to get out the vote, generically dubbed the “ground game” by observers. Clinton has set up a well-oiled machine to knock on doors, make phone calls, and use the Internet to the full extent possible, to turn out another 1% to 2% more voters in the so-called “battleground states.”
Politico.com (we’ve linked to it on this website! check out POLITICO.COM) has posted an excellent story on this subject. The website sent out questionnaires to a sizable group of functionaries from both parties. All the respondents answered anonymously.
“Democratic insiders are most confident in Colorado, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio and Wisconsin,” reported Politico. “They express more uncertainty in Florida and Iowa. Republicans, meanwhile, were split across these early voting states.” Republican insiders said 40% thought the GOP was doing the better job, 31% of the GOP said the Democrats had a better ground game, and 29% of the GOP said neither party’s ground game was superior to the other’s.
55,000 volunteer shifts
The Washington Post reported that Clinton had 55,000 volunteer shifts across the nation this weekend to get 3 million people to register or commit to vote before Election Day. “The Democratic nominee’s campaign is holding more than 1,000 events this weekend in Pennsylvania, 900 in Virginia, 500 in North Carolina, 250 in Ohio and 200 in Wisconsin,” said the Post.
Trump’s failure to set up a strong organization to register and get out to vote his key core constituency – noncollegiate white males – may rank, after his failure to prepare for the debates, as the second worst decision of his campaign. Dave Wasserman, an expert at the Cook Political Report, told the New York Post that 47 million noncollegiate whites, “more than half of them men”, didn’t vote in 2012. Wasserman noted: “There are no indications they are registering for Trump in any real numbers.”
Let’s look at the trends on a state-by-state basis:
During his November 4, 2016, broadcast of the “O’Reilly Factor”, Fox News pundit Bill O’Reilly conceded to a political panel that if Clinton takes North Carolina, Clinton wins the election.
“Democrats have a plan and are executing it,” one North Carolina Democrat told Politico. “Republicans have no plan and frankly, no clue.”
Not exactly. Trump did start late in organizing his North Carolina infrastructure, but local Republicans have 24 offices across the state, 170 paid staffers, and an additional 700 trained organizers leading thousands of volunteers” the Wall Street Journal reported Saturday. “She [Clinton] has 34 offices across the state and has hired hundreds of staffers,” the Journal article reported.
“Polls have long shown a tight race in North Carolina,” continued the Journal. “But a new Elon University survey of likely North Carolina voters shows Mrs. Clinton opening up a lead of 6 percentage points in the state.”
The sunshine state is the mother lode with 29 electoral votes. Trump must win Florida to have a pathway to 270 electoral votes. If Clinton wins Florida, it’s all over.
“Florida insiders in both parties say that, generally, Democrats and Republicans have fought to a draw thus far in early voting,” reports Politico. “One Florida Democrat conceded that Republicans have been stronger than expected. ‘My side did underestimate the GOP’s operation,’ the Democrat said. Among Republicans, the verdict was mixed.”
“’I think the [Clinton] effort is just slightly ahead of the built-in party apparatus Trump has working for him,’ said a Florida Republican to Politico. ‘However, Trump did begin hiring today for field — a little too late, of course — but at least he realizes what he is lacking.’”
Ohio is another “must win” state for Trump. The buckeye state is demographically ripe for Trump: a large noncollegiate white male voting segment, with comparatively fewer minorities than other battleground states, and wracked by the loss of manufacturing jobs during the great recession.
“But Clinton is counting on chipping away at Trump’s lead with a campaign organization that dwarfs the Republican’s operation,” reported Bloomberg Politics in October 2016. “She started building a political infrastructure in the state months earlier than Trump and now counts 64 offices with campaign staff across the state compared, with 31 offices that Trump has jointly with the Republican National Committee and local county party organizations.”
Trump spent less money than Clinton in Ohio on the all-important television buys. “Trump is focusing on building volunteers through rallies and maximizing enthusiasm from television coverage and social media,” said Bloomberg.
During a panel discussion Saturday on MSNBC, former Vermont Governor Howard Dean disputed that Democrats turning out in a largely Democratic county may be good for Clinton, as that county’s working class demographics favored Trump.
More Democrats have participated in early voting than Republicans in Ohio.
“Democrats have technically turned out more, but not to the level they’ll need,” one GOP organizer told Politico. “They’ll lose.”
Colorado, which voted for Obama in the last two elections, is another battle zone.
“The Clinton campaign has been very engaged in building a ground game and turnout operation and have a great deal of existing liberal infrastructure in the state to rely upon,” a Colorado Republican told Politico. “The Trump campaign, in contrast, has almost no ground game, has engaged in very little traditional campaign organizing, has done little direct mail or canvassing efforts, and seems to think a handful of rallies and last-minute television commercials can take the place of the hard work of actually asking individual voters to vote for him, and the state party has done very little to fill the void.”
Another campaign theater Trump needs to hit 270 electoral votes is Nevada.
“Democrats are slightly ahead of Republicans as a percentage of registered voters, but that is very typical for Nevada elections,” commented one Republican to Politico. “More Dems than Republicans vote early, while Republicans tend to prefer voting on Election Day. Also, in Nevada, we have a large percentage of independents and nonpartisan voters, which makes the raw number of Democrats and Republicans voting less predictive of the final results.”
Although this political chaos is enough to leave the head reeling, there is one more state which merits a look: Georgia, the home state of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
“Five days before the election, it’s probably not a good sign that the Republican nominee has to worry about Georgia,” writes Sean Colarossi on the politicususa.com website. “[T]he NBC News/WSJ/Marist poll conducted totally after the FBI fiasco, the two major candidates are in a virtual dead heat in the state. Trump gets 45 percent of the vote against 44 percent who prefer Clinton.
“With Trump’s operation far worse than Romney’s was four years ago and certainly inferior to Clinton’s, it’s conceivable that the Democratic nominee could outperform the polling by even more,” continued Colarossi. “If the latest poll of the Peach State is accurate, her GOTV [Get out the Vote] operation could be all she needs to steal the deep red state from Trump and put the election away early next Tuesday.”
Trump, with the self-assuredness that has characterized his persona during the entire campaign, scornfully noted the reports he might be in trouble in Georgia, and said at a campaign rally that of course Trump would take Georgia.
The impact a get out the vote organization can have been noted by Sasha Issenberg, author of “The Victory Lab: the Secret Science of Winning Campaigns,” and a consultant to Bloomberg Politics, in comments to the New York Post.
“The evidence we have is there is a big gap on resources and planning between the two sides, favoring Clinton,” said Issenberg. In states where the polls showed the two candidates deadlocked at 45%, asserted Issenberg: “Clinton is best positioned to turn that into 47 percent, while Donald Trump would end up at 44 percent.”