Hillary Clinton campaign - Ohio offices
Cincinnati (Pleasant Ridge)
Cincinnati (Walnut Hills)
Cleveland (Shaker Square)
Columbus (East Side)
With Election Day less than three months away, the two major presidential campaigns are setting up offices around Ohio and getting ready for the homestretch.
Republican officials are battling back against perceptions that Donald Trump’s presidential campaign is being out-organized in the critical battleground state of Ohio by Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
The Clinton campaign has about 200 paid staff, a Columbus headquarters and 19 local offices that it began opening July 6. The Trump campaign will not say how many paid staff it has, other than to announce the names of five senior staff, and it had just one office - its Columbus headquarters - until Friday when the campaign announced it had opened 15 organizing offices across the state.
Trump, who is running with Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, has also recently dropped in the polls, with the latest Quinnipiac University poll of swing states showing Clinton leading him 49 percent to 45 percent among likely voters in Ohio.
Despite Ohio Gov. John Kasich and a growing list of high profile Republicans saying they cannot support Trump, the campaign’s State Director Bob Paduchik said Ohio staff are “staying focused on doing the job we need to do to mobilize voters for Mr. Trump’s campaign.”
“We have a lot of support throughout the state from other elected officials and we are leveraging that support and using it to elected Mr. Trump,” said Paduchik, who came on board about two months ago and previously managed the Ohio campaigns of George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004.
“The Trump-Pence campaign has all the staffing and resources we need to win in Ohio, and we are reaching out beyond the Republican base to independents and disaffected Democrats,” he said.
Ohio is a must-win state for Trump. No Republican has ever been elected president without winning here.
Ryan Shucard, communications director in Ohio for the Republican National Committee said the RNC has more than 50 paid staff in Ohio working for Trump and other Republicans.
“I think it’s inaccurate to suggest that somehow there is no Republican ground game here that includes the Trump campaign,” Shucard said. “From the RNC perspective we have a robust ground game here. We are doing very well.”
The newly opened Trump offices include space in Xenia, Lebanon, Hamilton and one in the same Oakwood office that houses the Montgomery County Republican Party, whose Central Committee unanimously endorsed Trump and Pence on Thursday.
“Montgomery County Republicans are united behind Trump and Pence,” said Montgomery County Sheriff Phil Plummer, party chairman.
Last week seven Clinton campaign offices opened, with celebrities such as Sex and the City actress Kristin Davis on hand in Mason and Olympic skater Michelle Kwan featured in Lima. Area offices also are located in Springfield and Lebanon and one is planned for Dayton, according to Chris Wyant, the Clinton campaign’s Ohio state director for about three months.
“It shows to voters and supporters alike that we are an open and accessible campaign,” said Wyant, who was deputy field director for the Barack Obama campaign in 2008 and Obama’s Ohio General Election director in 2012. “It’s a good kind of public face.”
Troops on the ground
The political ads on TV get the press. Presidential candidates stumping in local cities draw the crowds. But the real work of a political campaign is at the grassroots in what is known as the “ground game.” It is the nuts and bolts of campaigning where local volunteers and campaign staff get the word out about the candidate, make phone calls, knock on doors, mobilize more volunteers, get the signs into yards and the buttons on lapels.
Most importantly, it is what gets people registered in time and to the polls to vote.
“It’s all good to have radio ads and television ads and mailers,” said Mark Owens, chairman of the Montgomery County Democratic Party. “But to reach out and touch people with that one-on-one contact, to make them feel involved, when you do that it’s those voters that tend to turn out on Election Day.”
Pence talked about it during his speech in Moraine on Wednesday.
“All the cable TV shows in the world, all the front page articles in the world, all the website stories and tweets and Instagrams don’t matter a hill of beans to the impact that you can have sitting down with a friend who knows you, who respects you and telling them how important it is that Donald Trump is the next president of the United States,” Pence said.
Clinton volunteer Jan Clark of Springfield said the office there is a gathering point for volunteers heading out to knock on doors or hit the phones.
“From here we have conversations with our friends and neighbors about why we’re supporting Hillary Clinton, and we help provide information about how to register to vote,” Clark said. “I’m so proud to be part of this community and part of this historic campaign.”
Increasingly campaigns micro-target voters and hone their their ground game message using vast databases of information, adding a high-tech sheen to that all-important ground game.
“President Obama has demonstrated twice the importance of that ground game, the importance of data analytics in targeting people, in getting them the message that will move specific blocks of voters,” said Democratic strategist Dale Butland, who worked for John Glenn for many years. “
He and Smith both said getting the ground game right in Ohio is essential, especially for Trump because the Electoral College map is already challenging for Republicans running for president.
“It’s the equivalent of an inside straight,” said Butland. “He almost has to sweep the swing states.
Mark Caleb Smith, director of Cedarville University’s Center for Political Studies, says Trump not only has to win Ohio - which is very much a microcosm of the country - but also needs Florida, North Carolina, Virginia and Colorado to win the electoral votes to put him over the top.
“Ohio is among the handful of most important states in the General Election,” Smith said. “So if he’s not competitive here it is hard to imagine he can be competitive in most of those battleground states at all.”