GOP insiders: Maybe Trump can win – Politico
Once resigned to a November defeat, swing state Republicans are increasingly optimistic about Donald Trump’s chances now that the GOP presidential nominee has closed a once-yawning deficit in the polls against Hillary Clinton.
That’s according to The POLITICO Caucus — a panel of activists, operatives and strategists in 11 battleground states, 10 of which President Barack Obama carried in 2012. While a majority of GOP insiders still say Clinton would carry their state if the election were held today, significantly more Republicans now say Trump would win than even just a few weeks ago.
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But despite Trump’s improving prospects, GOP insiders express little confidence in the Trump campaign’s infrastructure — particularly compared with how Democrats feel about Clinton’s campaign.
Still, the uptick in how Republicans view Trump’s chances is striking. In this week’s survey, 61 percent of GOP insiders said Clinton would win their state, but the 39 percent who picked Trump to win is a new high-water mark for the GOP nominee. It’s a measure The POLITICO Caucus tracks on a weekly basis, and for most of August, only about one-in-five Republican insiders thought Trump would win their state.
“Trump has turned the tide in Ohio, and he would win by a microscopic margin if the race were held today,” said a Republican there. (All respondents completed the survey anonymously.)
“The political landscape has changed in the past few weeks in Colorado, as well as the nation,” added a Republican there. “Reluctant Republicans are realizing the choice is ideological, angry Bernie supporters just can’t support Hillary because of what the DNC leaks exposed, and independents are indicating many will also throw support for Trump in Colorado because Hillary is so toxic.”
An Iowa Republican added: “Hillary has spent millions here. She’s pounded on him for months, unopposed and unrelenting. And she’s still behind. She’s functionally the incumbent and she has little to no room for growth. In short: she hasn’t put him away, she probably can’t put him away, so he wins.”
Still, many Republicans still think Clinton’s organizational advantage will prevail.
“Tightening numbers make the ground game even more important,” said a New Hampshire Republican, “and without a Trump ground game … he can’t win here.”
GOP insiders are mostly downcast about the state of Trump’s organization. Only 17 percent said they have “a lot of confidence” in the Trump campaign infrastructure in their state, while 39 percent have “only some confidence” in the campaign, and 44 percent have “no confidence at all.”
Democrats are much more confident about Clinton’s campaign: 82 percent said they have “a lot of confidence,” much more than the 17 percent who express “only some confidence” and 1 percent who have “no confidence at all.”
Anecdotes from the field about the Trump ground game amount to the stuff of nightmares for national Republicans.
— A Colorado Republican: “The most visible manifestation of Trump’s campaign in Jefferson County, Colorado, is a small office in a low-rent building that also happens to feature a psychic and a massage parlor. Add to that the constant robocalls, and Trump’s Colorado effort has the look and feel of a county commissioner campaign.”
— A Florida Republican said Trump was operating the “weakest Republican campaign in the state since … well, I’ve only been working here 30 years and cannot think of one worse.”
— A Michigan Republican: “The Trump campaign hired a number of staff, but they are all from out of state.”
—A New Hampshire Republican: “Are you telling me there is a Trump infrastructure in New Hampshire? I have more confidence in the Red Sox’ bullpen than I do in the Trump infrastructure.”
— A North Carolina Republican asked simply: “What infrastructure?”
— An Ohio Republican: “They have a pro at the top,” in state director Bob Paduchik, “but he has a staff of C players. Right now, they are putting a premium on yard sign locations vs. an actual Get Out The Vote effort.”
— A Pennsylvania Republican: “They seem to have signs out and about, so I suppose they have something in place.”
— A Virginia Republican: “Republican officials tell me they are having a hard time getting Trump signs, and the locals have to pay for them. So far I have seen no walk-around literature, which we had at this point in 2008 and 2012.”
There were a couple of bright spots, however.
“The Trump campaign infrastructure is in better shape in Iowa than in other states,” said a Republican there, “primarily because of the establishment support he has attracted there. However, the campaign is still far behind the Clinton effort in terms of staff and resources on the ground. It may not matter, though, because a drive through rural Iowa reveals a far greater level of organic support for Trump than for Clinton.”
Added an Ohio Republican: “Bob Paduchik knows Ohio very well, and he’s an elite political operative with few peers. If he’s given the resources, he can help Trump win Ohio.”
For Democrats, Clinton’s more developed and sophisticated organization is a panacea at a time when the polls are tightening. In addition to the strong ratings insiders gave her campaign, the vast majority of Democrats, 94 percent, said she would win their state if the election were held today, though that’s down from a range of 98 percent to 100 percent in the past five weeks.
“Just here in Hamilton County we have five Hillary offices, three dozen paid field staff and hundreds of engaged volunteers,” said an Ohio Democrat. “Trump does not have a single office.”
A North Carolina Democrat called it the “best I have ever seen here. Better than Obama in 2008 or 2012.”
Even so, some Democrats are less satisfied with Clinton’s organization.
“It is good, but it isn’t anywhere close to Obama,” said a Florida Democrat.
“This is a young, talented team but only knows what Brooklyn tells them,” added an Iowa Democrat. “They aren’t spending enough to cancel how low her numbers are in the state.”
And one New Hampshire Democrat recalled Clinton’s landslide loss to Bernie Sanders in the first-in-the-nation primary.
“The infrastructure is good. But is the candidate?” the Democrat asked. “Bernie blew the same team Clinton out of the water in February. Infrastructure can only go so far with a flawed candidate.”
These are the members of The POLITICO Caucus, not all of whom participated in this special survey:
Colorado: Ryan Call, Laura Carno, Matt Chandler, Will Coyne, Adam Eichberg, Mark Ferrandino, Cole Finegan, Michael Fortney, Andrew Freedman, Ted Harvey, Craig Hughes, Owen Loftus, Pete Maysmith, Frank McNulty, Karen Middleton, Christopher Murray, BJ Nikkel, Josh Penry, Rick Ridder, Alan Salazar, Janice Sinden, Pat Steadman, Pat Waak, Steve Welchert, Taylor West, Roxane White, Rob Witwer
Florida: Fernand Amandi, Scott Arceneaux, JP Austin, Tim Baker, Dennis K. Baxley, Slater Bayliss, Dave Beattie, Wayne Bertsch, Ron Book, Pamela Burch Fort, Jose Calderon, Kevin Cate, Kelly Cohen, Gus Corbella, Brian Crowley, Elizabeth Cuevas-Neunder, Justin Day, Judith Diaz, Nelson Diaz, John Dowless, Ryan Duffy, Jessica Ehrlich, Joe Falk, Alia Faraj-Johnson, Mark Ferrulo, Damien Filer, Marty Fiorentino, Rich Heffley, Nick Iarossi, David Johnson, Eric Johnson, Marian Johnson, Eric Jotkoff, Chris Korge, Jackie Lee, Susan MacManus, Beth Matuga, Fred Menachem, Jon Mills, Joe Mobley, Ben Pollara, Andrea Reilly, Steve Schale, April Schiff, Max Steele, Roger Stone, Richard Swann, Kevin Sweeny, Christian Ulvert, Steve Vancore, Ashley Walker, Andrew Weinstein, Andrew Wiggins, Ryan Wiggins, Rick Wilson
Iowa: Tim Albrecht, Brad Anderson, Rob Barron, Jeff Boeyink, Bonnie Campbell, Dave Caris, Sam Clovis, Jerry Crawford, Sara Craig, John Davis, Steve Deace, John Deeth, Derek Eadon, Ed Failor Jr., Karen Fesler, David Fischer, Ben Foecke, Doug Gross, Steve Grubbs, Tim Hagle, Bob Haus, Joe Henry, Drew Ivers, Jill June, Lori Jungling, Jeff Kaufmann, Brian Kennedy, Jake Ketzner, David Kochel, Chris Larimer, Chuck Larson, Jill Latham, Jeff Link, Dave Loebsack, Mark Lucas, Liz Mathis, Jan Michelson, Chad Olsen, David Oman, Matt Paul, Marlys Popma, Troy Price, Christopher Rants, Kim Reem, Craig Robinson, Sam Roecker, David Roederer, Nick Ryan, Tamara Scott, Joni Scotter, Karen Slifka, John Smith, AJ Spiker, Norm Sterzenbach, John Stineman, Matt Strawn, Charlie Szold, Phil Valenziano, Jessica Vanden Berg, Nate Willems, Eric Woolson, Grant Young
Michigan: Jill Alper, Saul Anuzis, Andrea Bitely, Lori Carpentier, Howard Edelson, Jordan Gehrke, Steve Hood, Darwin Jiles Jr., Joe Lehman, Dennis Lennox, Katie Packer, Ronna Romney McDaniel, John Truscott, Stephanie White, John Yob
Nevada: Mac Abrams, Greg Bailor, Barbara Buckley, Yvanna Cancela, Bob Cavazos, Linda Cavazos, Jim DeGraffenreid, Andrew Diss, Peter Ernaut, Ryan Erwin, Chip Evans, Jay Gerstema, Oscar Goodman, Ryan Hamilton, Dan Hart, Pat Hickey, Zach Hudson, Jeremy Hughes, Megan Jones, Lindsey Jydstrup, Adam Khan, Peter Koltak, Roberta Lange, Sam Liberman, Laura Martin, Michael McDonald, Chuck Muth, Erven Nelson, Kristen Orthman, Neal Patel, Nick Phillips, Jon Ralston, Andres Ramires, Emmy Ruiz, Scott Scheid, Mike Slanker, James Smack, Paul Smith, Jack St. Martin, Mari St. Martin, Daniel Stewart, Brendan Summers, Riley Sutton, Robert Uithoven, Michelle White, Ed Williams, Heidi Wixom
New Hampshire: Charlie Arlinghaus, Arnie Arnesen, Patrick Arnold, Rich Ashooh, Dean Barker, Juliana Bergeron, D.J. Bettencourt, Michael Biundo, Ray Buckley, Peter Burling, Jamie Burnett, Debby Butler, Dave Carney, Jackie Cilley, Catherine Corkery, Corriveau, Fergus Cullen, Lou D’Allesandro, James Demers, Mike Dennehy, Sean Downey, Steve Duprey, JoAnn Fenton, Jennifer Frizzell, Martha Fuller Clark, Amanda Grady Sexton, Jack Heath, Gary Hirshberg, Jennifer Horn, Peter Kavanaugh, Joe Keefe, Rich Killion, Harrell Kirstein, Sylvia Larsen, Joel Maiola, Kate Malloy Corriveau, Maureen Manning, Steve Marchand, Tory Mazzola, Jim Merrill, Jayne Millerick, Claira Monier, Greg Moore, Matt Mowers, Terie Norelli, Chris Pappas, Liz Purdy, Tom Rath, Colin Reed, Jim Rubens, Andy Sanborn, Dante Scala, William Shaheen, Stefany Shaheen, Carol Shea-Porter, Terry Shumaker, Andy Smith, Craig Stevens, Kathy Sullivan, Chris Sununu, James Sununu, Jay Surdukowski, Donna Sytek, Kari Thurman, Colin Van Ostern, Deb Vanderbeek, Mike Vlacich, Ryan Williams
North Carolina: Don Davis, Francis X. De Luca, Anita Earls, Jonathan Felts, Tami L. Fitzgerald, Dylan Frick, Taylor Griffin, Robin Hayes, Morgan Jackson, Patsy Keever, Theresa Kostrzewa, Michael Luethy, Ray Martin, Thomas Mills, Melissa L. Reed, Chris Sgro, Paul Shumaker, Dee Stewart, Brad Thompson, Bruce Thompson, Charlie Wallin, Doug Wilson
Ohio: Jerry Austin, Greg Beswick, Matt Borges, Erica Bruton, Tim Burke, Janet Carson, Jai Chabria, Martha Clark, Bob Clegg, Damareo Cooper, Jo Ann Davidson, Michael Dawson, Bill DeMora, Cindy Demse, Kathy Dicristofaro, Katie Eagan, Michael Gonidakis, Wes Goodman, Joe Hallett, Ian James, Melissa Klide Hedden, David Leland, Nick Martin, Rhine McLin, David Pepper, Molly Shack, Mark R. Weaver
Pennsylvania: Chris Borick, Larry Ceisler, Valentino DiGiorgio, Jason Ercole, Dan Fee, Charlie Gerow, Marcel Groen, Leslie Gromis Baker, Mark Harris, Nan McLaughlin, Aubrey Montgomery, Christopher Nicholas, Nachama Soloveichik, David Sosar, Todd Stephens, Doc Sweitzer, David Thornburgh, Ray Zaborney
Virginia: Ray Allen, Sandra Brandt, Marc K. Broklawski, Patsy Brown, Janet Carver, John Cosgrove, Brian Coy, Doris Crouse-Mays, Tom Davis, Julie Dime, Abbi Easter, Mike Farris, John Findlay, Joe Fitzgerald, Sean Harrison, Margo Horner, Robert Hurt, Gaylene Kanoyton, Chris LaCivita, Sue Langley, Frank Leone, Robert G. Marshall, Tucker Martin, Ed Matricardi, Susan J. Rowland, Peter Snyder, Susan Swecker, Jo Thoburn
Wisconsin: Meg Andrietsch, Mary Arnold, Kevin Barthel, Mike Basford, Rebecca Bonesteel, Barry Burden, Terri Burl, Jim Camery, Patrick Guarasci, Robert Hansen, Gary Hawley, Marian Krumberger, Emily Nehring, Jason Rae, Brandon Scholz, John Zapfel
Kristen Hayford contributed to this report.