The Asymmetric Ground Game Continues

Two months ago, I noted the striking differences in the numbers of field offices the presidential campaigns have established in the swing states. I figured I’d check up on those numbers as we go into the home stretch of the election. Here’s what the field office totals look like now:

The differences are still pretty striking. With the exception of New Mexico, Obama has at least twice the number of field offices in each of the states. The Obama campaign actually has 131 field offices in Ohio, compared to 39 for the Romney campaign.

I had expected the numbers to even out or at least approach parity, but that’s not happening. Here’s a chart showing the growth in the number of field offices since I first checked on 8/31/12:

In every state except North Carolina, Obama has been building offices far faster than Romney has. Romney actually has nine fewer Florida offices than he did two months ago. (Maybe this is a record keeping error?)

As I mentioned in my previous post, it’s not entirely clear what this means. Yes, I have a paper showing that field offices matter — they helped Obama win three states he’d have otherwise lost in 2008. But that, of course, is no guarantee that offices will have the same sort of effect this time around. And I don’t fully comprehend Romney’s approach to field offices here. I have a few ideas, though:

  1. He doesn’t think they’ll yield him the same sort of electoral payoff that the Obama folks are counting on, so he’s investing more in ads.
  2. He believes his offices can each cover more territory than the Obama offices can.
  3. He’s counting on field organizational efforts from the parties, church organizations, and other allied groups to do the same sort of things that the Obama offices are doing.

These are all possibilities. Regardless of the concept behind it, we’re seeing very different approaches to the ground game this year.

[Cross-posted at Mischiefs of Faction]

Support Nonprofit Journalism

If you enjoyed this article, consider making a donation to help us produce more like it. The Washington Monthly was founded in 1969 to tell the stories of how government really works—and how to make it work better. Fifty years later, the need for incisive analysis and new, progressive policy ideas is clearer than ever. As a nonprofit, we rely on support from readers like you.

Yes, I’ll make a donation

Seth Masket

Seth Masket is an associate professor of political science at the University of Denver.