With wet snow already ankle deep and falling fast, Dave Chiokadze and James Radcliffe trekked down one long driveway after another in search of potential votes for Donald Trump.
“It’s like the Revolutionary War,” joked Chiokadze as they made their way house to house along a Londonderry street, knocking on doors that were flagged by a smart-phone app and leaving long lines of footsteps in their wake.
The 22-year-olds, out-of-state volunteers involved in politics for the first time, are on the front lines of Trump’s effort in New Hampshire, where the Republican presidential candidate is hoping for his first victory of the 2016 campaign in the state’s primary on Tuesday.
Trump had a disappointing runner-up finish last Monday in leadoff Iowa, which has a byzantine caucus process that puts a premium on organizing supporters to make sure they turn out. Now, he and his team are intent on making a greater push to get out the vote in the opening primary state
“Look, I’ve never done this before. I’ve been a politician for seven months. I’m against governors and senators. They’ve done it their whole lives,” Trump said in an interview with The Associated Press on Friday. “It would seem to me that people would just go out and vote.”
Trump said he “never realized” the need to encourage supporters to actually take part in the caucuses. “Now, I think we’re going to have an OK ground game.”
Or at the very least, one that Trump is willing to show off.
His campaign shrouded its Iowa operations in secrecy. In New Hampshire, it has opened the door to what appears to be more robust effort to ensure his legion of supporters becomes an army of voters.
At his state headquarters in Manchester, volunteers were hard at work on two recent weekdays. They made calls using an automated phone dial system in a room decorated with black-and-white photographs of the man they’re working to elect.
Malcolm McGough, 58, a volunteer from West Hartford, Connecticut, said he had been working 13-hour days making calls.
“It’s really about asking them whether they’re going to get out and vote on Tuesday and whether they support Mr. Trump,” McGough said. He said he had made 1,150 calls for Trump on Wednesday alone.
Kevin Bray, 51, another volunteer, said he had driven more than 20 hours in the rain from Nixa, Missouri, after seeing the results in Iowa.
“Iowa happened and I woke up really irritated,” he said. “I said, you know, I want to make a difference.” He said he arrived on Wednesday morning and told Trump’s team to put him to work.
In a back room of the office, a white board displays ambitious goals for each day.
On Thursday, the team aimed to make 30,000 calls and knock on 2,500 doors. By early afternoon, campaign officials said they were partway to their goals. Their seven teams of volunteers sent to neighborhoods across the state had reported knocking on 823 doors so far.
On Friday, campaign staff hoped to boost the number to 5,000, as more than 100 new volunteers arrived from states such as New York and Pennsylvania to help. The team has run out of the 20,000 cards it printed to hand out during visits and was printing 25,000 more.
“I think look, we’ll take nothing for granted,” said Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, a New Hampshire resident overseeing the effort.
“We’re going to do everything we can to try and talk to every voter possible. So we’ve made a lot of phone calls and knocked on a lot of doors and we’re going to do a lot of stops.
“And obviously,” Lewandowski said, “Mr. Trump gets the biggest crowds, so he gets to see the most people.”
He said the outreach was aimed specifically at voters identified as having a high likelihood of being open to supporting Trump. Volunteers said they included many independent voters and those without a history of voting in the primary.
Steve Duprey, a political professional in New Hampshire who helped shepherd GOP Sen. John McCain’s winning 2008 campaign in the state, described the Trump ground game as “aggressive and sophisticated.”
“I think they have a first-rate operation in New Hampshire and I think they were under the radar for a couple of months,” Duprey said.
To be sure, Trump hasn’t completely changed his approach in the wake of his Iowa defeat.
He skipped town for a rally in South Carolina on Friday and has largely forgone the small-scale town halls and meet-and-greets that are the usual fare for potential presidents in Iowa and New Hampshire. That’s something some of his supporters in Iowa said was a hurdle to success there.
“It was challenging,” said Iowa state Sen. Brad Zaun, a prominent Trump supporter. “Everybody talks about the 99 county tour. I think if we could have gotten him there more often, it would have increased his numbers. … I wanted him to do smaller events. We could not get that done.”
The winner in Iowa, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, did visit all those counties. Cruz also developed and relied on a sophisticated, data-driven approach that targeted specific, individual voters.
In New Hampshire this past week, many voters interviewed said they had yet to receive mail or phone calls from Trump’s campaign.
Even as Trump acknowledged that investing additional time and money in Iowa may have helped win the caucuses, he continued to boast about spending less than the other candidates. Trump spent just $1.2 million on consultants in areas such as field operations in the final four months of the year, along with $235,000 to the data firm L2.
Cruz spent more than $3 million on data provider Cambridge Analytica alone in the quarter, and $900,000 on political strategy consulting.
Trump also continues to be badly outspent on television by candidates of significantly lesser means, advertising tracker Kantar Media’s CMAG shows.
The $3 million he’s spent so far on TV and radio ads in New Hampshire is eclipsed by groups backing Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
In South Carolina, the next state to vote after New Hampshire, he’s getting outspent 9 to 1 by Rubio and groups supporting him.
Still, Duprey cautioned against betting against Trump and his unorthodox approach.
“Just because it hasn’t been done this way before, doesn’t mean it don’t happen this time,” Duprey said.
Republished with permission of the Associated Press.