Challenging the Notion of a Traditional Campaign

Trump's operation is hardly an operation at all

Donald Trump's winning election strategy this year is likely not going to be a durable one, writes Mary C. Curtis. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Donald Trump's winning election strategy this year is likely not going to be a durable one, writes Mary C. Curtis. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted November 7, 2016 at 9:23pm

The question we’ll know the answer to on Election Day, other than who wins, is whether campaigns matter anymore. Above and beyond the drama of 2016, Hillary Clinton has run a traditional, and by all accounts, solid campaign. For starters, she actually has a campaign, with staffers working in a giant office in Brooklyn, who are also now fanned out in hundreds of field offices across the country.

The Clinton campaign has opened 489 of those offices. They have raised $497 million dollars. She is on track to spend 53 times Trump’s total in Florida ads alone.

When I dropped by a Hillary Clinton field office in Charlotte, N.C., just as early voting was getting underway, there were so many staff and volunteers that training for the ones canvassing spilled out onto the front porch.

Compare that to Donald Trump’s operation, which is hardly an operation at all. Trump’s campaign office in Trump Tower has served mostly as storage for his campaign signs. He has raised $247 million and didn’t spend one dollar on general election ads until late August. He is on his third campaign manager.

Instead of a robust field operation, Trump has relied on the RNC, which has opened 207 offices. When I went to one in Charlotte, it was empty, except for one World War II vet learning to use the phones.

Despite the lopsided campaigns, Trump is within a point or two of Clinton in national polls and splitting battleground states with her, too.

The conclusion after every close race since 2000 has been that “campaigns matter.” If Donald Trump wins, one conclusion has to be that campaigns as we knew them just don’t matter anymore.

Roll Call columnist Patricia Murphy covers national politics for The Daily Beast. Previously, she was the Capitol Hill bureau chief for Politics Daily and founder and editor of Citizen Jane Politics. Follow her on Twitter @1PatriciaMurphy.