THE BLOG
09/08/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

The B-Team Is Alive and Well In McCainland

Today's Politico has a very illuminating story on the ground operations and electoral strategies of the two presidential campaigns. While Politico, not surprisingly, provided quite a favorable headline for the McCain camp -- After shake-up, McCain ground game revs up -- clearly the person who wrote the story had nothing to do with that title since the story really spotlights two more major McCain problems: organization and tactics.

First, the story reports an assertion by the McCain camp about the "strength" of its ground operation that really cracked me up:

"I recognize that they will have more staff, more offices and more money," said Mike DuHaime, the political director who was brought over from his advisory role with the Republican National Committee. "But we have staff and volunteers who are battle-tested."

Apparently, DuHaime believes that because this staff worked the 2004 campaign, they are "battle-tested" for 2008, which is pretty damn funny and pleases me (as a Democrat) to no end. (Note: By the way, you may remember that DuHaime was Rudy Giuliani's (R) presidential campaign manager, so we've already seen how "talented" of an operation he can build, especially in places like Florida where they camped out for months and still finished a distant third.)

Of course, Obama's battle-tested forces are those who fought in the trenches during the 2008 campaign, against a primary candidate and campaign who was so much tougher and smarter than anything we've seen from McCain this year, or from the RNC over the past few years (think 2006 midterm elections). And let's not overlook that Obama's team was built in all 50 states and those units have largely been in place for a year (many left in place) and are the smoothest field operation ever assembled by a presidential candidate (even more impressive, in my opinion, than the Bush teams of 2000 and 2004).

Next, DuHaime offers a peek at the McCain strategy and tactics:

McCain also now boasts county chairs in 98% of targeted counties in targeted states and 94% of all counties in targeted states.

DuHaime listed 19 targeted states: Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon and Washington.

First of all, "county chairs" are a pretty worthless indicator of how deep your ground game is. We've already seen that the McCain campaign intends to open no offices in places like Indiana and North Carolina, and have dismissed any concern that the Obama camp will have three or four times the staffs and offices in places like Florida, Missouri, Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania...well, you get it.

Also, I can't help but notice that the McCain camp is spending its precious resources in states like Washington, Oregon, Maine, and Minnesota. I'm thrilled they are because it will be money down a rat hole. These guys don't have a prayer in any of these states (maybe MN if Pawlenty is McCain's running mate). This is wasted money. So is their investment in West Virginia. If McCain doesn't win WV -- a state that Obama is not targeting and the site of the huge Clinton blowout against Obama in May -- then we're looking at a 350+ electoral vote landslide. And this isn't the first time I've seen the McCain camp reference WV.

But even more problematic is which states aren't among McCain's Top 19 targets.

No Indiana? No Montana? No Alaska? No North Dakota? No Georgia? Are these guys nuts? They're worried about WV but not these states? They're spending money in places they're going to lose by double-digits (WA and ME in particular), but not worried about IN? Seriously?

Then the story gets to the part that must keep DuHaime and his cronies awake at night:

Thanks to a prolonged primary that reached all 50 states, Obama's campaign structure is far more mature than McCain. Instead of using traditional precinct captains, they are relying upon "neighborhood team leaders." These consist of between half-dozen to a dozen people over four-to-six precincts.

Hildebrand wouldn't quantify how many they have in place, but said it was "already tens of thousands." A primary focus of their summer organizational efforts, he said, is putting more of these volunteers in place.

He said they use similar voter contact technology as McCain and that results are plugged in and checked daily.

And instead of weekly reports, Hildebrand gets a spreadsheet at 7:30 each morning from his state directors tallying the previous day's results on the number of voters registered and contacted.

Told of the combined 130 offices between McCain and the RNC, Hildebrand declined to share how many they had but allowed it was at least "three times" that.

The key question, Hildebrand said, is how are Republicans compensating for their diminished registration numbers.

He noted the increased number of Democrats, citing a net gain of 300,000 in Pennsylvania, a state McCain's campaign is working hard to peel away from the Democrats.

Of course, these advantages are no guarantees of victory for Obama. There's still three months to go and sometimes serious underdogs win races.

But considering that McCain continues to trail significantly in the electoral map, the money race, enthusiasm, on the issues, against the public when it comes to his political affiliation ("R") and affiliations ("Bush" as well as his cadre of lobbyists running his campaign), the tenor of his campaign (negative), and the direction he wants to take the country -- it's hard to see his path to victory when he's so out-gunned on the ground and running such a nonsensical strategy of which states to target or defend.

The B Team is alive and well in McCainland.

Note: I had missed that New Mexico was included in the McCain list of states and edited out references to it as a state being ignored. Sorry about that. My bad.

Mark Nickolas is the Managing Editor of Political Base, and this story was from his original post, "McCain"s Tactical and Organizational Disaster"