GOP ranks no match for Democrats' legions
It’s a well-told tale that Republican presidential hopefuls are lagging far behind Democrats in poll performance, money raised and enthusiasm generated at this point in the presidential cycle.
But there is another yawning disparity that some veteran GOP operatives say is cause for concern. The latest source of Republican heartburn: The size and scope of Democratic field organizations in Iowa and New Hampshire dwarf the on-the-ground operations of Republicans.
This David vs. Goliath staffing mismatch is yet another sign of trouble for Republicans in the general election, said a veteran Republican strategist in Iowa, as it reflects sagging spirits among hard-core GOP activists.
“That’s a function of several things — their race is more interesting, their field is perhaps stronger, they have far more resources and, yes, the number of staff and HQs also adds to their turnout,” said the strategist, who requested anonymity to speak frankly about his party. “Plus, Republicans are in a funk, a general bad mood. It’s a harbinger of tough things to come in 2008 for our down-ballot races.
[Democrats] will have more volunteers, more passion.”Representatives for Democratic Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) and Barack Obama (Ill.) are cagey about the precise number of boots on the ground they have in the early states, but it’s widely thought to be at least five times what the Republicans have.
And even beyond the Democrats’ well-financed top two candidates, the contrast is stark. Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards has more than 100 staffers in Iowa, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson has over 70 and Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd has 60.
Of all the Republicans, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has the most aides heading into the caucuses: 17. (Romney does, though, have a cadre of more than 50 Iowa “super volunteers” who are paid a stipend each month to perform some organizational tasks typically done by unpaid help.)
In New Hampshire, the situation is similar.
Romney, Arizona Sen. John McCain and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani all have about a dozen paid staffers preparing for the primary.
Clinton and Obama both have over five times as many, says a source familiar with their New Hampshire staffing.
And it’s not just bodies; it’s infrastructure, too. None of the Republicans has more than one satellite office beyond their Iowa or New Hampshire state headquarters.
Clinton has 22 separate offices in Iowa and 12 in New Hampshire; Obama has 31 and 11. So why the Grand Canyon-wide organizational gap?
In part, it relates to the other problems the GOP has this cycle, in particular its fundraising deficit.
“It’s the money gap,” said Sara Taylor, an Iowa native who worked on then-Gov. George W. Bush’s caucus effort in 1999 and 2000 before joining the White House as a top political aide. She left the White House earlier this year. “And from a labor perspective, [the Democrats are] probably better at understanding the granular level of politics.”
“Clinton and Obama have more money than the GOP and so they have more staff,” added Fergus Cullen, chairman of the New Hampshire Republican Party, acknowledging that the gap between the two parties’ candidates was evident in the Granite State.
The veteran Republican strategist in Iowa observes that GOP candidates typically have fewer paid staff members “probably because we think we rely on volunteers more,” but explains that the Democrats’ ground game is just plain stronger — especially this year.
“The truth is, there is just more activity on the Democrat side. They do more calling, door-knocking, canvassing than we do. I’ll bet that as a result, the Democrats will have 50 percent more caucus attendees this year than we will — say, 80,000 for us and 120,000 for them."
Not surprisingly, Democrats are gleeful over their advantage.
--Ben Smith contributed to this article.
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