The ground game in Texas

The Chron looks at the Trump campaign in Texas, such as it is.

Just over two months before the November general election, Bryant typifies the Trump campaign in Texas, a mostly invisible but active network of supporters that Republican Party officials hope will yield a double-digit victory in the Lone Star State, even as polls show Trump is now about six percentage points ahead of Democrat Hillary Clinton in arguably the reddest of the Red States.

If Trump’s campaign is not invisible, by traditional campaign standards, it certainly is close.

Nationally, by most accounts Trump’s stretch run to November looks not too much different: he is eschewing the traditional data-driven, well-funded and advertised campaign in favor of one based mostly on the name identification of the nominee, with a grass-roots push by supporters and a late ground game in key states only.

“Barack Obama had a strong ground game in battleground states four years ago, and so did Mitt Romney – and they mostly canceled each other out,” said Mark Jones, a Rice University political scientist who has studied campaign organization. “Some of the most effective campaigning is done door to door, by telephoning, making contact with likely voters. That’s what Donald Trump appears to be banking on. Whether it works we’ll know in November.”


While Trump campaign officials are silent about exactly how data-driven their efforts are in Texas and elsewhere, Texas GOP Chairman Tom Mechler has said the state party has upped its game in that regard and is using a variety of data aimed at turning out large numbers in November. Other officials said the focus will be on ensuring the reelection of U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, R-Helotes, and a handful of state representatives, all of whom face tight races.

In Austin, Republican political consultants and lobbyists who usually are active to some degree in presidential campaigns, or are at least following the behind-the-scenes developments in Texas, say they are not involved in or hearing much about Trump’s ground game. Privately, they characterize the ongoing get-out-the-vote effort as either non-existent or ineffective.

Matt Mackowiak, a Austin-based Republican consultant and former Capitol Hill and Bush Administration aide, said while he has been “pretty underwhelmed” by what he knows about Trump’s Texas organization so far, he would not expect the campaign to put many of its tight resources into Texas, since it is not expected to go Democratic.

“The question is really how toxic Trump may be to some of the down-ballot races,” Mackowiac said. “I think he’s going to under-perform previous Republican nominees in Texas.”

Trump supporters dismiss concerns about the candidate’s ground game in Texas.

“Some people have said Trump is going to lose because ‘I haven’t seen any campaign signs,'” said Jeff Ricks, a Trump campaign volunteer in Cedar Park. “When I worked for Rick Perry for President, we didn’t have many signs because everyone knew who he was. Everyone’s heard of Donald Trump.”

On the one hand, there is some grassroots, social media-based stuff going on, which is similar in nature to the campaigns Rick Perry and Greg Abbott ran in 2010 and 2014. Hard to know what to make of that since I have no visibility into it, and none of the many Republican campaign professionals in this state (at least, none the Chron could reach) claimed to be involved or to have heard anything about what the Trumpsters were doing. The state party says it’s doing some stuff though they didn’t specify what. The CD23 race is a big focus, for all the obvious reasons. So who knows what this all amounts to.

What wasn’t mentioned in the article at all was what if any kind of statewide Democratic turnout effort there was. That wasn’t the focus of the story, but the lack of even a one-line mention for comparison purposes made me fear that there just wasn’t anything to talk about. Turns out that isn’t the case, or at least it’s about to not be the case.

National Democrats are beginning to open offices in Texas ahead of a presidential election that appears it could be closer than usual in the reliably red state.

The Democratic National Committee plans to open a headquarters Saturday in Houston that is expected to be run in conjunction with the campaign of presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. A Clinton spokesperson said more such offices will be opening in the coming weeks.

Democrats characterized the moves as another step in capitalizing on the race for the White House to help down-ballot candidates.

“We’re absolutely committed to electing Democrats up and down the ballot,” DNC spokesman Walter Garcia said Monday, pointing to the Houston office and trip to Texas on Tuesday by Anne Holton, the wife of vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine. “And as we get closer to November, we’ll continue building capacity in all 50 states.”

Texas is already home to dozens of pro-Clinton volunteer groups that have taken it upon themselves to open offices, organize events and get out the vote. For example, a group in West Texas is holding an event Friday in Lubbock where Bob Krueger, the last Democrat from Texas to serve in the U.S. Senate, is expected to endorse Clinton.

For weeks, the Clinton campaign has had in place a Texas state director, Jackie Uresti, and a number of other staffers in the Lone Star State. The Dallas County Democratic Party told members earlier this month that its special events coordinator, Chris Nguyen, had been hired as the campaign’s North Texas organizer.

The DNC headquarters in Houston will be at the CWA hall at 1730 Jefferson St, with the official opening being at 12:30 tomorrow. I may or may not be able to swing by, but I do intend to reach out and talk to someone there about what their plans are for Harris County. I’m just glad there is something from the national folks.

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3 Responses to The ground game in Texas

  1. Gary Bennett says:

    “arguably the reddest of the Red States”

    I cannot understand this assertion, except for the fact that everybody in the state who isn’t try to claim that we are the best of everything seems to want to say that we are the worst of everything (the two varieties of “Texas exceptionalism”)
    . The reality is that by most objective measures (percentage Republican votes in statewide and national contests, percentage of Democratic cities, counties, legislative districts etc.), we do not crack the list of fifteen or twenty reddest states. On this, as many related issues (gun-happy, crime-infested, homicidal, corruption, educational achievement, per capita income etc.), we rest in the murky middle range of the fifty states. Given the resources and economic boom of our major cities, that is a dismal record of course, but failure is as common as success among the various states of the US. What we may be is the reddest of the megastates (those of ten million or more, with major cities); but even there we have Georgia as a rival (North Carolina is not far behind).

  2. Brad says:

    Gary, Better dead than Red…

    Where does Texas stand in terms of health care, education, insurance coverage, childhood poverty, environment?

  3. Pingback: More on the ground game here – Off the Kuff

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