Donald Trump's promised Florida field offices remain elusive, while Hillary Clinton's keep growing
SARASOTA -- 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 still only has a Sarasota statewide headquarters open in the state he absolutely must win, while the Democratic nominee has 51 offices even though she has multiple paths to winning that don't require Florida's 29 electoral votes.
"We are running a 67 county strategy. We're not taking any vote for granted, and that includes making sure we are within the communities where the people are that support this campaign," said Simone Ward, Clinton's Tampa-based Florida campaign director. "You've got to build a strong ground game, and you can't wait until the last minute to do that."
Mitt Romney four years ago had opened two dozen Florida campaign offices by early June, but Trump is running a far less conventional -- and less expensive -- campaign.
Karen Giorno, a Florida-based senior adviser to the national Trump campaign, noted that the campaign has 67 "county CEO's" helping identify and mobilize Trump supporter, 70,000 active volunteers, and three RVs, known as "mobile field offices" criss-crossing the state and stopping at local festivals, gun shows, and other functions, to help organize Trump voters. Two dozen field offices poised to open during the week of Sept. 5.
"Probably all of them will be online by the end of next week. We're just waiting on some tweaky things with the leases. Each location has been identified, we've talked to the landlords," said Giorno, noting that on top of those Trump campaign offices, aother 25 campaign offices jointly run by the Trump campaign and the national and state GOP will open soon.
Minutes after Vice Presidential nominee Mike Pence concluded a rally in Sarasota Wednesday, Giorno noted that Hillary Clinton had not set foot in Florida for more than three weeks (Trump was in Tampa a week ago, and Vice Presidential nominee Tim Kaine was in Tallahassee Friday and Broward County Saturday, and canceled a planned north Florida trip this week due to weather), and that she struggles to generate nearly as much excitement from her supporters as Trump does from his.
Florida is shaping up to be yet another neck and neck race, with the average of recent polls compiled by RealClearPolitics.com showing, Clinton leading Trump 44.3 percent to 41.6 percent. The tighter the race, the more important a strong get-out-the-vote operation. In a close race it can be the difference between winning and losing.
The Clinton campaign is targeting Florida's diverse electorate, with at least a quarter of its paid staff speaking Spanish or Creole, and a dozen coalition directors concentrating on specific constituencies: LGBT, millennials, veterans, seniors, Hispanics, African-Americans, Caribbean, Jewish, labor, and Muslims.
"We've got hundreds of staffers on the ground ...We are hiring people every day, and we are building a staff that looks like Florida," said Ward, who used to be national political director of the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee. "This is a big state, it's like six or seven states in one, and you have to run a strategy that meets the needs of every corner of the state. You can't take any part for granted, and that it means it takes a long time to build out that apparatus. We are building that ground game, and ultimately that is what's going to give us success in November."
This week alone, the Clinton campaign is opening 17 campaign offices: New Port Richey, Temple Terrace, Town 'N' Country, Largo, North Port, Panama City, Coral Springs, Palm Bay, Quincy, Punta Gorda, West Palm Beach, Deltona, two in Jacksonville, Naranja, Little Haiti and a DNC HQ in Sarasota.
Having fewer offices does not necessarily mean doing less important campaign work, Giorno said, noting that the Republican National Committee and Republican Party of Florida have been doing grass roots campaigning for two years, and Florida Trump supporters for nearly a year.
"You can see it in the fact that we are outpacing the Democrats in voter registration. If we were not doing activities in the field you would not have those numbers," she said.
Democrats now have a 259,000-vote edge over Republicans, only half of what it was four years ago.
But Clinton allies say many of those newly registered Republicans were registered Democrats who consistently voted Republican in statewide races anyway. Democrats claim an advantage in arguably more important newly registered voters, and especially non-white, new voters. Of the 534,00 new voters added to the rolls this year, Democrats say, more than 180,000 are Democrats and nearly 156,000 are Republicans. Less than 4 percent of the nearly 63,000 new African-American voters are Republican, and just 16 percent of of the new Hispanic voters are Republican.