WaPo: Trump ground game in Pennsylvania might produce a surprise

Can Donald Trump win Pennsylvania, as promised? FiveThirtyEight stacks up the odds in favor of Hillary Clinton (76.7% as of this morning), and the RCP average shows Hillary with a narrow 1.9-point lead — although the only poll since the convention showing Trump with a lead just dropped from a Republican polling outfit (Trafalgar), and only by a point. Don’t count him out yet, though, warns Washington Post reporter/analyst Philip Bump. He visited suburban Pennsylvania, and found out that the Trump/GOP ground game might be stronger than anyone predicted:

What matters, and why I was in Scranton and Bucks County, is the ability of a campaign to get its voters to the polls. This is the fabled ground game, the field effort, the get-out-the vote, or GOTV, push. This is a realm where Clinton has been expected to outshine Trump for months, after Trump’s flaky efforts in the primary and avowed lack of interest in the general. Given that Democrats tend to vote less regularly than Republicans, Democrats have spent decades honing turnout operations that they supercharged with the Internet to elect Barack Obama to the White House twice. Republicans haven’t.

The margin between the two campaigns in their abilities to turn out voters, though, is narrower than I thought — at least in this critical area of the possibly critical state of Pennsylvania. …

Annmarie Tyler, who is in her late 50s, was a volunteer helping to run the show at the office. The office had 20 phone lines (Clinton’s team mostly asks people to use cellphones) and offered multiple three-hour shifts for volunteers a day. Their walk program usually relies on a smartphone app to guide walkers, but if volunteers aren’t at that technological level, they get paper packets. I explained that when I’d visited Trump’s headquarters in New Hampshire shortly before the primary, the office was pretty dead. Tyler said I should have stopped by there, where there were more than 15 phones running even before the Republican Party nationally weighed in.

The Trump effort had more energy in Scranton than Team Hillary did, while in Bucks Bump seems to have encountered a roughly equivalent effort. Bump appear to have been impressed that the Trump team had significant assets in place in the Keystone State, and it might come as a surprise to others who have heard his campaign largely eschew this kind of campaigning. However, Pennsylvania is critical to their hopes of success, especially with early voting numbers coming from other battleground states. The 20 Electoral College votes could swing the election, and so it makes sense that the ground effort would center on suburban counties in Pennsylvania.

It’s not all great news, however. Bump reports that the Trump effort in both counties still are engaging in significant amounts of persuasion on candidate choice; at this stage, the effort should be able to focus on turning out the convinced. Even that cloud has a potential silver lining, though. If there are significant numbers of voters still making up their minds today, traditionally those voters will break heavily away from the incumbent party, and the trick is to get them to commit to voting. Hillary is such a known quantity, and clearly a continuity candidate following on Barack Obama’s policies, that Trump could well catch a break if those voters do turn out.

Pennsylvania might be the key to the election. Here are the RCP average leads in the key battleground states:

Let’s run that through the 270toWin cycle and see how that looks:

Click the map to create your own at 270toWin.com

If all of these leads other than Pennsylvania’s hold up, then a flip of the Keystone State would win the election for Trump. Needless to say, that’s still a big if, especially because of the dynamic of early voting. Florida’s voters in particular began early voting before Trump began his polling comeback in mid-to-late October, which means he may well need to dig himself out of a hole in today’s voting. Trading Florida for Pennsylvania won’t work — Trump would have to find 13 more electoral votes, and it’s difficult to see how he can manage it. If we still might be in for a surprise or two in Pennsylvania, as Bump reports, Trump may need to provide a few more to pull this off.