There's one scientifically proven way to win an election. It's called the ground game. Basically, it consists of a campaign volunteer coming and knocking on someone's door to ask them to go and vote. If you don't live in a swing state, maybe it's never happened to you. But the research shows that this is the way to win an election. So it's curious to see the latest news from Donald Trump. He's outsourced his ground game to the RNC. When it comes to theories about getting out the vote, Trump and Hillary Clinton are on completely different pages.
Trump's ground game is really more of a non-theory, to be fair. According to USA Today, Trump's "outsourcing" is no joke. And it isn't a new claim. During an interview with Fox News in August, he said that the vote would essentially get itself out. "I don't know that we need to get out the vote. I think people that really want to vote, they will just get up and they're going to get out, and they're going to vote for Trump," he told the channel's Eric Bollin. As of the end of August, the campaign had just 88 offices — and only one (yes, one) in Florida — according to the latest count done by PBS News Hour.
Clinton's campaign had, at the time, more than three times as many — some 291, with 34 in Florida alone. The rest are in other swing states, like Ohio, Colorado, Virginia, and Iowa — plus some Democratic-leaning states like Pennsylvania. On top of that, her camp has been clear that they are working with and coordinating efforts with state and local party committees and activist groups. They said their aim is to get three million Americans registered to vote or committed to voting, which they've started with 55,000 volunteer shifts worked this past weekend.
Taking a closer look at Florida, as S.V. Date did for The Huffington Post, you get the sense that not much has changed during the month of September for Trump, while Clinton has continued to make progress. Date interviewed Trump’s county chairman in Orlando as cable service was being connected to the campaign's headquarters in the state. Meanwhile, in the first 20 days of September, Clinton upped her number of offices in the state by 23, for a total of 57.
Perhaps the RNC can make a dent in Trump's lack of organization. The party has claimed they are well ahead of Clinton and the Democrats. But take a closer look at their numbers. For example, in Florida, they claim there are 1,040 staff and trained organizers on the ground this year, as opposed to 84 in 2012. That's a big difference... but how many of those are full-time staff, and how many are staff-trained organizers? That's a big difference in commitment.
In his Sept. 12 memo, RNC strategist and communications director Sean Spicer also said the party has "conducted over 55,000 one-on-one meetings with prospective volunteers and future organizers." Remember that number? Clinton had that same number of volunteer shifts booked in one weekend. Not prospective volunteers, but committed shifts (some individual volunteers may have committed to more than one, but it's still further along than prospectives for the future).
Of course, that's not to say that Clinton has the election in the bag. But should it come down to the wire, turning out voters could make all the difference. Personal interactions with campaign staff and volunteers could move some voters from the "likely to vote" column into the "definitely going to vote" column. After all, research shows that the ground game likely won three battleground states for Obama in 2012. With Trump's Electoral College path to the White House so difficult, this might be his biggest mistake of the campaign yet.