MANCHESTER, N.H. — Donald TrumpDonald TrumpInterior Dept. reactivates Twitter accounts after shutdown Booker: 'I am not open to being president' Women's marches draw huge crowds as Trump takes office MORE’s campaign is promising it will deliver a strong ground game on Tuesday that will propel him to a primary victory in New Hampshire.
Trump has a lead in polls, but doubts about whether his supporters will show up for him at the polls have reverberated since his defeat to Ted CruzTed CruzTrump's America: Businessmen in, bureaucrats out When Trump says 'Make America Great Again,' he means it Booker is taking orders from corporate pharmaceuticals MORE in the Iowa caucuses.
Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, a veteran New Hampshire political operative, chalks the criticism up to “establishment guys who have put us in the mess we find ourselves in today.”
He said Trump’s campaign had 250 volunteers fanned across the state and knocking on doors on Friday in the middle of a blizzard that dropped more than half-a-foot of snow.
And in addition to the 12 paid staffers spread across four offices in the state, Lewandowski said the they had dozens more making calls from the campaign’s seven phone banks, as well as 60 volunteers doing the same from the campaign’s Manchester headquarters.
Combined, the Trump campaign claimed some 350 people were working to get-out-the vote for the billionaire businessman the weekend before the primary.
“I can’t make people go vote, nobody can,” Lewandowski said. “But we’re making sure we’re touching as many people as possible and we’re doing what every good campaign does — talking to our supporters as often as possible to make sure they understand there’s only one person in the race who will change the system.”
When The Hill stopped by the Trump campaign headquarters on Saturday, the office was a beehive of activity. About 25 volunteers manned a phone bank there. One man had come all the way from Australia to work for Trump, while another had driven through the night from Missouri.
Lewandowski oversaw the chaotic scene of dozens of staffers and volunteers hurrying around in preparation for Election Day. Supporters stopped by unannounced to pick up yard signs, with one woman saying she’d driven there from Derry because she was fed up by all the Jeb Bush signs she was seeing.
It’s notoriously difficult to gauge a candidate’s ground game. And while some Republicans in the state minimize Trump’s ground game, others say they’re seeing signs of life and believe his operational deficit is being overstated.
“They’ve done a good job of putting together a quiet and effective ground game, even if the other contenders don’t appreciate it,” said Steve Duprey, a Republican National Committee member from New Hampshire.
Trump’s doubters have long wondered whether the political novice will be able to turn the energy around his campaign into hard votes and say it’s a question that will dog his campaign until he’s able to prove otherwise.
“He has no ground game in New Hampshire,” said former Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), who is supporting Bush for president. “He is good theater, so folks show up to watch him, but he has no organization.”
Other Republicans in New Hampshire echoed Gregg. They believe Trump, who has long eschewed the town halls and house parties that are the bread and butter of New Hampshire presidential primary politics, is primed to once again under-perform.
“He doesn’t have the ground game out here to match what others have,” said Tom Rath, the former New Hampshire attorney general who supports John Kasich for president. “They may not need it because all the energy behind Trump is so strong. But others have been laying the groundwork here, so it should worry them if his energy slips at all because someone else could pass him by.”
Trump has never campaigned two consecutive days in the state and has spent little time in New Hampshire during the critical one-week window between Iowa and the first-in-the-nation primary.
He has hosted just five campaign stops in the past five days, four of which were in one day. A sixth event was scheduled for Friday, but Trump canceled it, blaming the snow. Instead, Trump remained in New York just four days from the big contest, while every one of his Republican rivals held campaign events.
Polls show Trump with a large lead. He held a 17-point lead over Marco RubioMarco RubioGOP, Dems hear different things from Trump Senate committee to vote Monday on Tillerson Tillerson met with top State official: report MORE in a CNN/WMUR poll released Saturday.
And he appears to have one advantage he did not enjoy in Iowa.
In that state, Cruz had been seen as a favorite and other evangelical candidates, such as Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum, failed to break out.
In New Hampshire, Bush, Kasich, Rubio and Chris Christie are all fighting hard for support and could be in danger of splitting the vote.
Trump’s supporters argue the criticism of his ground game is over heated.
They contend that Iowa was never a natural fit for him and that he was still able to turn out the second most caucusgoers of all time behind only Cruz, who set the record.
Trump is relying on many first-time and non-traditional GOP primary voters, and Lewandowski noted that people can register to participate in the primary on Election Day, potentially boosting turnout in Trump’s favor.
“A lot of Trump people are not traditional primary voters — and he’s proud of that,” said Republican strategist Ryan Williams, who recently backed Jeb Bush’s campaign. “[But that demographic] requires a greater deal of voter contact to ensure those voters actually come out on Election Day.”