Tagg Romney could not figure it out. Why had Obama spent so heavily during the primaries when he had no primary opponent? Only later did Tagg realize this was a key to Obama’s victory.
“We were looking at all the money they were spending in the primary and we were thinking ‘what are they spending all their money on? They’re wasting a lot of money.’ They weren’t. They were paying staffers in Florida” and elsewhere.
If Romney’s Manhattan Project had been debate preparation, then Obama’s was the ground game.
Building on its 2008 field organization, Obama’s campaign had far more people on the ground, for longer periods, and backed by better data. In Florida, for example, the Romney campaign said it had fewer than 200 staff members on the ground, a huge commitment of its total of 500 nationwide. But the Obama campaign had 770 staff in Florida out of 3,000 or so nationwide.
“They had more staff in Florida than we had in the country, and for longer,” said Romney adviser Ron Kaufman.
Indeed, in swing state after swing state, the Obama field team was much bigger than the Romney troops. Obama had 123 offices in Ohio, compared with Romney’s 40. Obama had 59 offices in Colorado, compared with Romney’s 15, according to statistics compiled by the Obama campaign.
Stevens said he expressed alarm about the Democrat’s early advantage in money and staff. He said Obama’s decision to reject public financing for the fall campaign (a move Romney followed) worked to Obama’s advantage because Obama used primary funds to prepare for the general election, and it meant there was no ceiling on how much could be spent.
“It is like sitting in the Alamo,” Stevens said in the postelection interview, comparing the siege by Mexican troops in 1836 to competing against the superior forces of the Obama campaign.
“Yes, it is alarming. There are a lot of Santa Anna’s soldiers out there.”