January 10, 2012

TRYING TO BUILD WITHOUT LAYING FOUNDATIONS:

Ground Game Determines Candidates' Strength (NATE SILVER and MICAH COHEN, 1/10/12. NY Times)

Mr. Romney and Mr. Paul have built the best field operations in New Hampshire and other early-voting states, many Republicans say.

Mr. Romney's campaign office on Elm Street here is a hive of activity. On Saturday, more than 100 staff members and volunteers packed the premises, bounding around and leaving a tower of pizza boxes in their wake.

Mr. Paul's office, although not as well staffed, operates with military-like discipline. Visitors' names and phone numbers are promptly entered into a database. Doors are kept closed, and a "liberty bell" rings every time a caller converts a supporter from another campaign. It rang five times in our 20 minutes there.

But Mr. Romney and Mr. Paul are more than the exception than the rule, Republicans say. Other Republican field operations fall well short of historical New Hampshire standards, by several measures.

Rick Perry's office is just a mile down the road from Mr. Romney's, occupying much of the ground floor of a 12-story building. But it seems to exist in a parallel universe in which the primary has been called off. On Sunday, the office was run by a single mid-level staff member, whose voice echoed throughout the room. Everyone else was out knocking on doors, he said.

Mr. Gingrich's office was marginally better off. There was little evidence of organization; we roamed for five minutes before one of the dozen volunteers greeted us.

Operations like these suggest that campaigning in New Hampshire has undergone a paradigm shift: from a ground war, dominated by door-knocking and phone calls, to an air war, in which the candidate's fortunes are determined by paid and free media. Retail politics still exist -- Jon M. Huntsman Jr. alone has conducted more than 160 events throughout the state -- but the campaigns often leave little trace once the candidate is gone.

Posted by at January 10, 2012 6:31 AM
  

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