Does Having a Lot of Campaign Offices in Swing States Matter Much?

The Trump campaign is scoffing that the Biden campaign is behind the eight ball in the key state of Ohio:

The Trump campaign characterizes Biden as a late-comer to a state where its ground operation – including 28 field offices and over 117 staff – has been active for months.

“While Joe Biden and Democrats fumble to find Ohio at the 11th hour, Trump Victory never took the Buckeye State for granted and developed the strongest grassroots operation in the history of our state,” spokesman Dan Lusheck said in a statement Saturday. “We look forward to a big win for Team Trump on November 3rd.”

It’s a little surprising to see the Trump campaign boasting about how many field offices it has in a swing state, because one of the surprising lessons of the 2016 cycle was that having more campaign offices in a key state — even way more offices — does not necessarily make you more likely to win.

Right around this time four years ago, the hot storyline was that the Clinton campaign’s ground game was set to wildly outpace that of the Trump campaign, because her campaign had considerably more offices and paid staff on the ground, in key state after key state.

In 2016, like in 2012, it is not close. Clinton has more than twice as many field offices as Trump nationwide (489 vs. 207), and her organization dominates Trump’s in every battleground state. Clinton’s offices outnumber Trump’s by 20 in New Hampshire, 22 in Iowa, 20 in Colorado, and 27 in North Carolina. In the states where Trump has opened the most offices, such as Pennsylvania (42), Florida (29) and Ohio (22), Clinton’s advantage remains large: She bests him by 15 offices in Pennsylvania, 39 in Florida and 47 in Ohio. Trump’s ground game is far from nonexistent, but his campaign simply does not have the infrastructure to match Clinton’s capabilities for voter contact and mobilization.

As you may recall, Clinton lost Iowa, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Florida, and Ohio. She barely won New Hampshire, by 2,736 votes, or four-tenths of one percentage point. Then again, perhaps she would have lost those states by even wider margins if she didn’t have those offices and staffers in those states.

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