Hillary Clinton has a 51-1 advantage over Donald Trump in Florida, but that’s not a poll result. The Tampa Bay Times’ Adam Smith reports this morning that Team Hillary has opened fifty-one field offices in the biggest swing state in the Electoral College. Team Trump pledged nearly four weeks ago to open two dozen offices in the Sunshine State, but so far they’re still stuck on one:
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.
Florida has the most electoral votes of any state that’s not already solidly in the red or blue column. Romney just barely missed winning it in 2012 by less than 68,000 votes while having a significant field operation. To win the election without Florida, Trump would have to hold North Carolina and then win Ohio (needed anyway), Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. At the moment, polling averages in all four states show Trump trailing — and it’s a virtual tie in North Carolina to boot.
Team Trump has no field offices in North Carolina. As in none. They have a grand total of two in Pennsylvania, a state the campaign has repeatedly claimed as the key to their strategy. They have invested more effort in Wisconsin than any other state, but still have eleven fewer field offices there than Team Hillary.
PBS explains that the Trump campaign continues to insist that voter passion and high-profile events matter more than organization:
Trump officials insist they are building up large infrastructure in traditionally blue states like Wisconsin and Michigan, where the campaign says it plans to open 26 and 25 field offices, respectively. And, Trump officials point out, even without the majority of their offices in place, their campaign has begun to close in on Clinton in the polls in a few battleground states.
The Trump team is also counting on something that is harder to measure: voter passion.
In Michigan, Trump state director Scott Hagerstrom said he has never seen the response he has witnessed over the past few weeks. “We are used to having to beg people to volunteer but now we’re seeing huge demand,” he said. Several other Trump state directors echoed the thought and insisted they are running out of yard signs.
It’s true that polling remains competitive in most of these states, but as Team Trump likes to point out in other contexts, polling doesn’t equal voting. It takes considerable effort to identify and target persuadable voters to leave their houses on Election Day and vote for a particular candidate. The passionate voters on either side don’t need that effort, but those aren’t enough to win general elections when the other side out-organizes you — as Team Romney discovered to their chagrin four years ago.
This also prompts questions about Team Trump’s fundraising. They have begun to compete at the same level as Hillary Clinton on donations, and have had good numbers for the last couple of months. Even so, we’ve barely seen advertising from Team Trump, and what buys have been promised have been rather modest. If they’re not advertising and they aren’t opening field offices, where’s the money going? Don’t be surprised if big-ticket donors start demanding an answer to that question, and soon.