Donald Trump was in the Pittsburgh area Saturday, and Hillary Clinton has planned a rally there Tuesday. The early focus on Pennsylvania suggests it will again be a battleground state, even though no Republican presidential candidate has won the commonwealth since 1988.
While polls show Trump neck and neck with Clinton in Pennsylvania, he appears to be well behind her in developing a state campaign organization.
I have no idea whether that will matter, since Trump handily beat 16 Republican rivals by ignoring most of the conventions of politics.
But the Clinton campaign has had paid staff in Pennsylvania for months. Marlon Marshall, Clinton’s director of state campaigns, told me Friday they’ve already hired “a few dozen” organizers and are getting more, many from the communities where they’re working.
“We believe in bring people to the process and having neighbors talking to neighbors, people knocking on doors and making phone calls,” Marshall said.
By contrast, several media reports say the Trump campaign is being slow to develop state organizations. The campaign doesn’t yet have a state director for Pennsylvania or a media contact.
Trump has said in public appearances it makes more sense for him to rely on Republican state organizations than try and build his own campaign infrastructure in dozens of states.
I reached State Republican Party chairman Rob Gleason, and he said Pennsylvania seems to be shaping up just that way — which is fine with him.
“We have an excellent organization, and we can carry the ball for them,” Gleason said. “We’re looking to have more financial support, and we think we’ll get it.”
Gleason said he has a sophisticated, data-based plan for identifying Republican voters and making sure they get to the polls.
Political pros will tell you that a great field organization won’t generate a win for an unpopular candidate, but if the election is really close, it can make a difference.