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RNC’s ground game behind Donald Trump deserves more credit for Florida victory

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Plenty of congratulations are going out to the Donald Trump campaign, which is well-deserved. Others unhappy with the outcome are expressing other sentiments.

Several pundits are in the process of analyzing and pronouncing “winners and losers.” In Florida, the lists on both sides are long, but not necessarily complete.

The Tampa Bay Times’ Adam Smith correctly mentions Trump’s Florida director Susie Wiles and most certainly grassroots workhorses, like Deborah Cox-Roush on the winners side. Though not mentioned, the Republican Party of Florida did what they could with the limited funding available to them.

Few, if any, are including the Republican National Committee (RNC) on the list of winners. This is a major oversight.

Chairman Reince Priebus, Co-Chair Sharon Day of Broward County and the entire organization played a monster role in the Trump victory. (Full disclosure: my firm was a consultant to the co-chairman in the previous election cycle.)

The “experts” gave Trump little to no chance. Many mocked the notion of a “silent army” of voters ready to be mobilized. The polls indicated a Trump “movement” was nowhere on the horizon.

Trump had no realistic chance to win Florida, many believed, because he had no get-out-the-vote ground game. He supposedly had only a handful of field offices while the Hillary Clinton campaign had more than 50.

In reality, Trump was on equal footing, or better, with the Clinton campaign in Florida when it came to a ground game. That will come as a surprise to those who analyze elections and campaigns.

Because of the RNC, the Trump campaign had 65 GOP Victory Offices in Florida at their disposal and working on his behalf. Working out of those offices were 1,773 staff members paid for by the RNC.

These staffers were not just making telephone calls. They were making incredible numbers of voter contacts during the cycle.

Day makes it clear the measurement of voter contact is not the same as it was in previous cycles.

“We had 6.5 million voter contacts,” said Day. “Not doors knocked on or flyers left on a doorknob. Actual contacts with targeted voters.”

She also made it clear that this was not just an election-year effort. It was part of a 50-state strategy born from the famous autopsy report issued after the 2012 elections.

“We have funded people on the ground since 2013,” she said. “The RNC committed $175 million toward building a ground game.”

Between the RNC, state, and local efforts, nearly 300,000 voters were registered in diverse communities since 2012, reducing the partisan voter registration gap by nearly 86,000 voters. On election night, Trump’s share of the Hispanic and African-American vote was up slightly over 2012, but that made a difference.

While the focus of this discussion is on Florida, it is worth repeating the RNC was at work in the other states. It is difficult to imagine winning blue states like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and possibly Michigan, without such an effort.

“Donald Trump understood the common people and he connected,” added Day. “But he could not have won” without the strong ground game that was built and deployed.

There were plenty of winners and losers on Tuesday night, but outside of Trump, there was none bigger than Priebus, Day, and the Republican National Committee.

No wonder Priebus will be the White House chief of staff.

Bob Sparks is President of Ramos and Sparks Group, a Tallahassee-based business and political consulting firm. During his career, he has directed media relations and managed events for professional baseball, served as chief spokesperson for the Republican Party of Florida as well as the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Attorney General of Florida. After serving as Executive Deputy Chief of Staff for Governor Charlie Crist, he returned to the private sector working with clients including the Republican National Committee and political candidates in Japan. He lives in Tallahassee with his wife, Sue and can be reached at Bob@ramos-sparks.com.

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