Trump’s Deficient Ground-Game

An interesting piece from the PBS Newshour,  The Trump campaign has a ground-game problem:

As the presidential election marathon breaks into a final sprint, the Trump campaign faces a jaw-dropping gap in the ground game: Hillary Clinton currently has more than three times the number of campaign offices in critical states than does Donald Trump. Those figures include both Trump offices and Republican National Committee victory offices, as confirmed by the Trump campaign.

The contrast is a test for the conventional campaign model and points to the candidates’ stark differences in methods. Clinton is cleaving to the data-driven, on-the-ground machine that won two elections for Barack Obama. Trump, on the other hand, insists he does not need traditional campaign tactics to win the election, pointing to his overwhelming nomination victory achieved with a relatively small team and little spending.

The whole piece is worth a read.

A taste:

For the Trump campaign, the deeper issue may be time, not space.

Take three make-or-break states. Pennsylvania has two Trump offices right now. North Carolina, one. Florida, the biggest swing state prize, also has just one – Trump’s Sarasota headquarters.

Those four Trump offices cover 165,000 square miles of critical election territory. Clinton has 100 offices in the same space.

Either this approach is going to provide data to suggest that what was thought was true about ground level campaigning and GOTV efforts is incorrect or it is going to severely hamper pro-Trump turnout.

FILED UNDER: 2016 Election, US Politics, , , , , , , ,
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. Ravi says:

    The scary thing is that if Hillary outperforms the final polls because of her stronger ground game, Trump might try to use that as bogus evidence of fraud.

  2. Bookdragon says:

    Of course Trump has other volunteers for his ground game. Neo-nazis are reportedly coming out in droves to canvass and call for him….

    GOP is in better shape than this suggests FL. The national org may be lacking, but on the local state level they have been preparing for 4 years to match an Obama-style ground game.

  3. stonetools says:

    I think that Clinton’s GOTV will result in her outperforming the polls by 2-3 points. This probably means Democratic victories in Florida, NC and (just maybe) Ohio. Iowa, Georgia and Arizona are probably Trump’s , thought, although the Clinton GOTV will make them close.

  4. Richard Mayhew says:

    Interesting evidence out of North Carolina’s early voting:

    “Registered Democrats continue to lead in the accepted ballots numbers, and are over-performing their 2012 same-day comparison numbers, at 129 percent of where they were in accepted ballots on the same day from four years ago. Registered unaffiliated voters are 128 percent of their same-day accepted ballots, and registered Republicans are 66 percent of where they were four years ago on the same day. Overall, the total returned and accepted mail-in ballots are at 96 percent of where they were on the same day in 2012.”

    So the Clinton ground game is getting their early votes in at 2x the rate of the Republican non-game. The question then becomes are the Democratic votes sure voters who just wanted to get it done early or infrequent/marginal voters who have been politely harrassed/organized/mobilized to vote. If it is the second then polling that shows registered voters will be closer to reality than polling showing likely voters as mobilization targets are by definition unlikely voters.