Trump’s reelection team recently conducted a nationwide test of the mechanics of getting his supporters to the polls:
They activated tens of thousands of volunteers and tested phone bank capabilities and get-out-the-vote operations in every state in the nation. Before and after the sprawling exercise, GOP officials coordinated thousands of “MAGA Meet ups” to organize and expand their network of Trump loyalists, paying close attention to battlegrounds like Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
The “dry run” of the campaign’s field operation likely served several purposes:
- Identify flaws in their systems, whether tactical or technological
- Train local volunteers for tasks they’ll conduct between now and Election Day
- Fire up supporters in battleground states
- Obtain favorable media coverage
Trump’s campaign invested relatively little in field organizing in 2016, relying instead on digital (44% of his media spending) and TV. This time, campaign manager Brad Parscale has made clear that he won’t be fighting the last war — he’s preparing a campaign heavy on both field organizing AND digital advertising.
Of course, Democrats have poured themselves into grassroots mobilization since at least the Dean and Obama days. In the Trump era, a strong ground game helped Democrats win victories across the country in 2017, 2018 and 2019. Trump’s recent field exercise reminds us that they won’t have the game all to themselves next year, however, and we simply don’t know how many votes a robust turnout operation will add — and where. Coupled with an aggressive digital advertising program, Trump’s field operation could yield a significant number of votes in crucial states…yet again.
Plenty of Democratic and Left-leaning organizations plan massive field operations next year, hoping to knock Trump out of the White House and the Republicans out of power across the country. Their combined efforts may well dwarf their Republican competition, and enthusiastic Democrats may turn out in higher numbers than even an inflamed Trump base, just as they did in 2019’s off-off-year elections. Still, Trump wasn’t on the ballot this year, and Obama won reelection after a midterm drubbing. Democratic field organizers had better keep it up, unless they want to see four more years of Donald Trump in the White House.