Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton held a voter registration rally Tuesday, packing several hundred supporters into the gym at West Philadelphia High School.
Looking ahead 85 days, Clinton and Republican Donald Trump are beginning to focus on the field effort they hope will help them win Pennsylvania on Nov. 8.
“Let me thank you for being out here on a hot August afternoon, at this beautiful high school, and let me ask you to be sure to register to canvass, to be part of this campaign,” Clinton said as she wrapped up her speech. “My friends, let’s go to work, and let’s build the future that America deserves!”
After the exhortations, the route out of the gym was lined with staff, encouraging everyone to make a left turn into a room with tables and chairs where volunteers would be trained for canvassing.
A few dozen took up the offer. One of them was Ro Breslin of South Philadelphia, a retired accountant who told me she’s agreed to become what the campaign calls a “fall fellow,” which she said amounts to doing some pretty heavy duty volunteer work.
“They’re looking for people to actively register voters, not just in Pennsylvania but in other states, to do door-to-door canvassing, work phone banks,” she said. “It’s pretty intensive. You commit to at least 15 hours a week.”
That’s 15 hours every week until the election.
The Clinton campaign has regularly announced field office openings, and it said there are now more than three dozen across the state.
The counter punchWhat about the Trump campaign?
It’s only in recent weeks that the campaign had someone in Pennsylvania who could talk with reporters on the record.
That’s senior adviser David Urban, who told me that like the Clinton campaign, the Trump organization is swarming across the state. I asked if he could more specific.
“I can be specific, but I choose not to be specific,” Urban said. “I know we’ll have enough offices, manpower, resources and energy to do what we need to do to contest every ward, every precinct, not just in Philadelphia but statewide.”
I called around to a few other Republicans.
Two pretty well plugged-in folks said they didn’t know of any Trump field offices in the Philadelphia suburbs, though there are apparently plans to reopen an office in Conshohocken that was active in the spring.
I also checked with Lee Snover, an active Trump supporter who chairs the Northampton County Republican Party.
She said the campaign expects to have an office open in the Lehigh Valley in the next few days.
“I just got a call that they were zeroing in on a property they were going to lease in the next two days, and we’ve been using our county headquarters to do stuff for Trump,” Snover said. “We’ve been doing door to door every Saturday in large groups.”
The use of county Republican offices is consistent with Trump’s statements that he plans to rely a lot on state GOP organizations.
Snover said she’s seeing plenty of energy for Trump, and she thinks more and voters will eventually see through what she says is a clear media bias against the Republican candidate.
Urban says there’s clearly more enthusiasm on the Republican side, with Trump still drawing huge crowds. After all, he didn’t have an extensive organization in the primary campaign either, and managed to beat just about everyone’s expectations.
I must also note that some Republicans told me privately they’re discouraged by Trump’s recent statements, and are pessimistic about the party’s chances in November.
New playerAnd late Tuesday, a release came in from the Great America PAC, which describes itself as “the leading independent committee supporting Donald J. Trump for president.”
The release said the committee had formed leadership teams for Pennsylvania and Ohio to lead Great America’s “extensive get-out-the-vote operation.”
Great America PAC isn’t the only pro-Trump group operating. It’s been around since the spring, and had raised a little over $5 million as of June 30, and had $1.2 million on hand.
The group’s biggest name is GOP consultant Ed Rollins.
I didn’t recognize any of the names on the six-person Pennsylvania leadership team, but there are plenty of Republicans I don’t know.
None of the other Republicans I spoke to Tuesday about field operations mentioned this group either.