To pinpoint campaign operations, PBS NewsHour compiled office data from 15 key states, speaking with state and national campaign officials, cross-referencing Federal Election Commission spending reports and checking local news coverage.
As of Aug. 30, Hillary Clinton has 291 offices in those 15 battlegrounds. Donald Trump has 88. (Those figures include joint presidential and party offices.) Both campaigns pledge that more offices are coming.
The Trump campaign says its number will more than double — adding another 132 offices — in coming days and weeks.
But lagging so far behind in infrastructure as the campaigns enter the post-Labor Day blitz is unprecedented. To win, the Trump team hopes that their candidate can rewrite the laws of the ground game.John Sides writes at The Washington Post:
This is obviously unprecedented in modern presidential elections. Typically, the candidates have similar resources and campaign organizations. Typically, it is difficult for one candidate to have a large advantage in televised advertising or fieldwork. In 2012, for example, my research with Lynn Vavreck showed that neither Barack Obama nor Mitt Romney could sustain a durable advantage in advertising. Obama’s edge in fieldwork did appear to net him votes, although not enough to be decisive in the electoral college.
By comparison, Trump is being vastly outspent in advertising and is limited essentially to whatever field organization the Republican National Committee can provide — which will be exceeded by Hillary Clinton’s, much as Romney’s was exceeded by Obama’s. How much will this cost him on Election Day?
Probably the best estimate comes from a recently published piece by political scientists Ryan Enos and Anthony Fowler. They show that the effect of the 2012 presidential campaign on voter turnout was quite large, about 7-8 points overall.