With the political conventions behind them, Donald Trump and the Republican National Committee are scrambling to close their ground game gap with Hillary Clinton boosting fundraising and concentrating on vital battlegrounds, even as some sources suggest they have a long way to go.
The campaign notoriously has lagged Clinton’s in organizational strength, but faces the unavoidable reality that a ticket to the White House requires victory in key swing states like Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania and North Carolina.
In a sign they’re taking the task seriously, the campaign on Wednesday announced $80 million in donations for the campaign and the GOP in July, money that can be used to target their message at these voters. The haul marks a big fundraising surge for the GOP nominee, and comes close to the combined $90 million raked in by Clinton and the Democrats last month.
“The campaign is in good shape. We are organized. We are moving forward,” campaign manager Paul Manafort told Fox News’ “Happening Now” on Wednesday, saying they’ve now hired 50 state directors.
The fundraising comes despite a rocky post-convention period for Trump that has included dealing with backlash over the candidates feud with Muslim parents whose son was killed in Iraq.
Sources say behind-the-scenes, though, concerns continue to surface that Trumps ground game isnt yet strong enough to compete with the Clinton machine.
It hasnt been the smoothest ride, one source with knowledge of Trumps field operations in the South told FoxNews.com.
Another described the operation as all over the place.
But Karen Giorno, a senior Trump adviser and Florida chief strategist, maintains the campaign has a plan in play that includes a coordinated multi-state Trump-RNC push that will challenge Democrats in key states.
She vowed a visible acceleration in the battlegrounds but added its not a one-size-fits-all plan.
This is a non-traditional campaign in a non-traditional year, she told FoxNews.com. As you look at Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio each effort is different.
Florida, which has 29 electoral votes up for grabs, has emerged in the past two decades as one of the most important battleground states in the country. Giorno said Team Trump has amassed a large army of volunteers and supporters in Florida, boasting its a well-oiled machine that is growing.
Soon, shell put another 10 people on the payroll mostly in leadership positions.
Both the Trump and Clinton campaigns are working with their respective national committees — where Democrats likewise have a staffing edge in some places.
In Florida alone, Democrats maintain a paid team more than twice the size of the Republicans’. The goal of the Clinton camp is to have 100 operational field offices in the Sunshine State.
Last month, it set up shop in Miami.
Miami and South Florida in general are going to be a large part of our strategy for success, Simone Ward, Clintons Florida director, told The Miami Herald. It is a major [get out the vote] universe for any presidential campaign, and in particular ours.
In Pennsylvania, Democrats have a field staff of more than 100 while Republicans have 54. In Ohio, Democrats have 70 on staff as of June 11; Republicans have 53.
Ninety-plus days before a totally winnable election and Im stunned, Gary Nordlinger, president of a political consulting firm and adjunct professor at George Washington Universitys school of political management, told FoxNews.com, regarding the on-the-ground organizing. Im just shocked that Republicans did not learn from their mistakes in 2012.
Despite campaign promises going into the Republican National Convention in Cleveland to step up their operations this month, staffing on the ground may still be spotty. FoxNews.com called Trump headquarters in Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania and North Carolina — but only in Florida’s office in Sarasota did a person answer the phone.
Calls on Aug. 1 — and again 24 hours later — to the other three offices either were not answered or not returned when voicemail messages could be left.
An 11:06 a.m. ET call on Aug. 1 to the Pennsylvania branch led to this message: The person youve called has a voicemail box that has not been set up yet.
To Giorno, the comparisons of staffing numbers are not the best way to size up the rival teams.
[Clintons] playbook is so last century, she said. Were lean and mean and we get to adjust they have this clunky, old school apparatus.
Despite the data, Nordlinger says the New York businessman isnt to blame.
Im not laying this at Trumps feet, he said. [The RNC] has had four years to prepare for this.
But the RNC, too, pushes back on any suggestion their ground game is lacking.
The RNC has built the most efficient and effective ground game in the partys history, RNC spokeswoman Lindsay Walters told FoxNews.com. We are focused on the entire ticket, working to get all Republicans on the ballot elected to office.
Walters said the RNC has had staff on the ground in key states since 2011. Currently, there are 489 paid staffers, 4,100 trained organizers and thousands of volunteers in the field.
In total, we have over 775 total staff dedicated to beating Hillary Clinton, Walters said. No other campaign, committee, or organization has been doing this for as long as we have. We are the infrastructure for the entire GOP ticket. And the Trump campaign has embraced that.
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