A few days ago, I took a closer look at Trump's (lack of a) ground game:
The Tampa Bay Times reported something absolutely amazing this morning: Donald Trump has a total of one field office open in Florida. One.
This from the Times's Adam Smith:
On Aug. 8, the Donald Trump campaign said its first two dozen campaign field offices would open across Florida within two weeks.Since then, not a single new Trump office has opened in America's biggest battleground state, but Hillary Clinton's campaign added another 32.The Republican nominee only has a Sarasota statewide headquarters open in the state he absolutely must win to be elected president, while the Democratic nominee has 51 offices even though she has multiple paths to winning that don't require Florida's 29 electoral votes.
That. Is. Stunning.
One campaign office in Sarasota. On Labor Day weekend of an election year. With the presidential vote only 68 days away.
Let me say it a different way: Clinton has 50 more field offices than Trump in one of the most important — and largest — swing states in the country. 50!
By way of comparison, President Obama had 102 field offices in Florida during his 2012 reelection race. Rival Mitt Romney had 48. No candidate in modern memory has had one field office in a state as big and as important as Florida. It just doesn't happen.
And Florida isn't the exception, it's the rule when it comes to Trump's total lack of field and turnout operation.
As Philip Bump noted in this space earlier in the week:
PBS's NewsHour counted up the number of Trump and Hillary Clinton field offices (including joint offices for the campaign and the party) in a number of battleground states. Clinton and the Democratic Party have 291. Trump and the Republicans have 88. In nearly every state where there are any campaign offices at all, Clinton has an advantage in number.
That's a "wow" number.
Given the stunning success of Trump's decidedly unconventional campaign in the Republican primary, there's a tendency to assume that traditional organizational measures such as how many field offices you have open in a swing state simply don't apply to him. He's doing it all differently! He's shaking up the system! He's freaking out the squares!
Here's the hole in that argument: The general election is a totally different beast — in terms of the number of votes you need — than a primary.
Trump, as he is fond of reminding people, got more primary votes (13.3 million) than any other previous Republican candidate. But Romney, in a convincing national loss, got 60 million votes in 2012. (Obama got 65 million.) To grow the electorate by that order of magnitude, the first thing you have to do is build a mechanism to identify — and then turn out — everyone who is for you or leaning toward you. That's why you have field offices in swing states — so that people who work for you are living in key communities where you need to ensure you are maximizing your vote. You need to touch these people — door-knocks, pamphlets, phone calls, running into them at the grocery store — as many times as possible before Nov. 8 so that on that day they are certain to turn out and vote for you.
One field office in a state that cast more than 8 million votes in 2012 — Obama took 4.2 million, Romney 4.1 million — is campaign malpractice. There's simply no way around it.