Donald Trump‘s chief Florida strategist and senior advisor, Karen Giorno, shot down murmurs circulating in the Sunshine State this week that Trump’s national ground game has “a lot of holes.” A story in the Associated Press specifically cited the fact that Trump’s state headquarters, based in Sarasota, currently has a sign in the window saying the office would be “temporarily closed” while the office preps for the RNC convention in Cleveland.
And though Trump’s detractors were quick to point to the AP story as evidence of disorganization, the Trump campaign fired back that the state headquarters was a single building, while Trump’s Florida field operations will cover all 67 counties and those volunteer networks will remain in operation. Trump carried the state by an overwhelming margin in the Republican primary in March.
“Bricks and mortar don’t make a campaign. People make a campaign,” Giorno said, laughing off the notion of gaps in coverage around the state. “We have a grass roots army and it’s ready to deploy after the convention.”
While the Associated Press story documented a lower than expected number of paid staffers at field offices in key swing states, Donald Trump has consistently managed tap into a rich vein of voters that traditional Republican get-out-the-vote (GOTV) efforts have failed to mobilize in recent years. Trump has smashed voter turnout records in the Republican primary election, an analysis that POLITICO grudgingly confirmed in May:
While Trump’s insurgent candidacy has spurred record-setting Republican primary turnout in state after state, the early statistics show that the vast majority of those voters aren’t actually new to voting or to the Republican Party, but rather they are reliable past voters in general elections. They are only casting ballots in a Republican primary for the first time.
The POLITICO story further points out that Trump’s draw at the ballot box could go either way:
It is a distinction with profound consequences for the fall campaign.
If Trump isn’t bringing the promised wave of new voters into the GOP, it’s far less likely the Manhattan businessman can transform a 2016 Electoral College map that begins tilted against the Republican Party. And whether Trump’s voters are truly new is a question of urgent interest both to GOP operatives and Hillary Clinton and her allies, who have dispatched their top analytics experts to find the answer.
A pair of polls this week bolster Giorno’s argument that Trump is gaining momentum in the Sunshine state. First, a poll released by Rick Scott‘s Let’s Get to Work committee showed Trump leading Clinton, 47-45 among likely voters. But because that poll was conducted by a partisan organization, the media initially dismissed it until Quinnipiac University released their own poll that also showed Trump winning, 42-39.
Giorno is not new to Florida. She previously worked as Director of External Affairs for Governor Rick Scott in 2011-2012, and has extensive political and field experience inside Florida and around the country. She has worked on the advance teams for President George H.W. Bush, and later, as a senior member of the advance team for First Lady Laura Bush. During the 2016 primary election, she oversaw political field operations across the southeast region of the United States, including Florida, when Trump won 66 of the state’s 67 counties.