With just about 75 days until the 2016 presidential election, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton appears to have secured a sizable lead in polls in battleground state Pennsylvania – with little evidence her opponent is even organizing to fight back.
Despite Donald Trump’s vice presidential candidate Mike Pence getting a much publicized haircut at a barbershop in Norristown on Monday, and visits by the candidate to factories and rallies around the state, some are criticizing the campaign's efforts to win the state.
Trump previously polled at a near-tie in Pennsylvania with Clinton, making the state’s 20 electoral votes that much more precious. But in the wake of the summer’s political conventions, Clinton is polling far ahead of Trump in the state.
But to the Clinton campaign, the latest Quinnipiac polls showing them ahead by 10 points at 52-42, doesn’t mean that they can sit back and expect an inevitable victory in November, supporters said.
“It’s actually the opposite,” said Marlon Marshall, director of states and political engagement for the Clinton campaign, who was in Philadelphia checking up on operations this week. “We’re fighting like we’re 10 points behind.”
Clinton organizers and volunteers working out of more than three dozen campaign offices statewide are still knocking on doors and calling potential votes to secure a win in November despite their advantage in polls, Marshall said.
“When you’re running against an untraditional candidate, it is important that you don’t stray off-course yourself,” he said.
In June, Politico reported that the Trump campaign was “missing in action” in Pennsylvania. The Intercept reported the campaign spends twice as much on hats and merchandise as on campaign staff. Donald Trump's campaign has three offices in the state, in Southpoint outside Pittsburgh, in Mechanicsburg and in Conshohocken.
Montgomery County commissioner Joe Gale, a Trump supporter, said one voter told him they drove to a campaign office to get Trump yard signs, but no one was there.
“I’m very disappointed in the ground team that the Trump campaign has in Pennsylvania,” Gale said, who attended campaign events in Conshohocken and Bucks County this week.
“I think it’s not too late to change the ground game, to make sure people have signs, have key ballots, are getting registered to vote,” Gale said. “We haven’t had the three presidential debates yet. Once those debates happen, then you’ll have an idea where Pennsylvania’ going. I think then you’ll see a change.
The Trump campaign defended its strategy in the state.
"Throughout Pennsylvania we have implemented a comprehensive voter contact program," said senior Trump campaign adviser D avid Urban in a statement. " From Philadelphia and its suburbs to the rural towns in the T of the state to inner-city Pittsburgh our dedicated volunteers and field staff consistently hear that Mr. Trump's message of empowerment, strengthening our military, and expanding economic opportunities to all Americans is resonating. Our already strong support in Pennsylvania will continue to grow because Mr. Trump's message connects so well to voters across a wide demographic."
The absence of their opponent’s ground forces is not lost on the Clinton campaign, Marshall said.
“I’m sure they’ll start to put organizers on the ground soon, but organizing is something that takes time,” Marshall said. “It’s not something you can do overnight. Even if he were to put a bunch of staff on the ground now, he’s behind. We believe we’re building infrastructure that is going to be helpful and put us over the top in November.”
Clinton TV spots rolling in Pennsylvania and around the nation have been making big promises for her first 100 days as president. Clinton proposes to kick off her presidency by making the richest Americans “pay their fair share,” and then use that revenue to make the largest public expenditures toward domestic jobs since World War II.
How exactly those promises would become reality remains to be seen, but in the meantime, the Donald Trump campaign seems to be stuck in a slump which NBC News characterized as a “nosedive.”
“He continues to use rhetoric that shows he doesn’t have the temperament to be president,” Marshall said of Trump. “But we also have to continue to give voters a reason to vote. Given the secretary’s [Clinton’s] vision, I think we’re doing a good job with that.”