With More Scrutiny on Ground Game, Trump Steps Up Outreach in N.H.

Jan 11, 2016

Credit Josh Rogers, NHPR

 With less than a month to go until Primary Day, the Granite State “ground games” of the presidential campaigns are getting more scrutiny than ever — from the media, but also from political leaders.

Just this weekend, as pointed out in a tweet from former Union Leader executive editor Charlie Perkins, New Hampshire Republican State Committee Chairwoman Jennifer Horn  suggested that her party’s candidates could be doing more when it comes to pounding the pavement for votes. 

“Not one campaign has knocked on my door,” Horn wrote on Facebook, noting that she’s voted in the four most recent primaries and remains undecided. “I hope you guys are talking to someone out there.”

Then there was this Washington Post story Monday, where writer Philip Bump spent the past Saturday touring New Hampshire campaign headquarters around Manchester, canvassing neighborhoods in Merrimack and Bedford to talk to voters about what they’ve seen, and otherwise trying to get a sense of how much the campaigns were doing to reach out to the public. (For a local perspective, NHPR's Josh Rogers also took his own look at the Republican campaigns' ground game in this story produced last month.)

Among other things, Bump came away with little evidence that the Republican frontrunner Donald Trump had an active grassroots apparatus. He’s not the only reporter to cast a skeptical eye on the Trump campaign’s voter outreach efforts — last month, a New York Times story noted that Trump had "fallen behind in the nuts and bolts of organizing" in Iowa and was also lagging in New Hampshire.

“When I arrived, on the second stop of my tour of all of the leading candidates' headquarters that day, there were no volunteers, no clusters of people waiting for walk lists,” Bump wrote. “There were a few dudes unloading some drinks and, upstairs at the actual headquarters, another dude unlocking the office door… If Trump was doing anything on the ground, I must have come at the wrong time to see it.”

But that visit to the campaign office might only tell part of the story. The Trump campaign is in fact taking steps to galvanize supporters to do more than just show up to rallies — those who signed up to attend his rally in Windham this week also received an email from state director Matt Ciepielowski, with “an important favor to ask of you on behalf of Mr. Trump.”

“Besides the many rallies and town halls that we are planning between now and the election on Feb. 9, we will also be running an extensive ground game of phone-banking and door knocking,” Ciepielowski wrote in the email. “To assist in that effort, we are requesting that you bring your PC or Apple laptops, Android tablets or iPads along so you can help us with our voter contact program at our office locations after the rally. If you have a head set with a mic that works with your cell phone or laptop, please bring that, too. And then join us in one of our local offices after the rally.”

The email goes on to invite supporters to stop by one of the campaign’s offices in Manchester, Newmarket or Keene to work on get-out-the-vote efforts.

As Primary Day draws closer, it's probably a safe bet to expect more calls-to-action from the Trump campaign — trying to make sure those same voters who are lining up by the thousands to attend his rallies also line up to vote for him at the polls. 

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