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Eye On Candidates
November 2, 2015

Sanders and Clinton Home In on New Hampshire

The New Hampshire primary is likely to break several candidates on the Republican side. In some ways that has been the Granite State’s traditional role – long shots pin their hopes on winning, or at least finishing well enough to become relevant, and launch a national campaign based on their showing in the second contest in the nomination process. Those who fail at this task drop out.

Over on the Democratic side, at this point that seems less likely to be how things play out, as both former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders are poised to dominate the results, leaving little room for the third and final candidate, former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, to get the attention he would need to mount a competitive bid for the nomination.

Reinforcing that narrative is a Clinton vs. Sanders story in Bloomberg Politics this morning describing the different paths the two have taken to build their organizations in New Hampshire:

Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders Enter New Phase in Battle for New Hampshire

Clinton’s team started early, with senior staff in place as she launched her candidacy in April and a staff of a few dozen paid organizers working on her behalf by the summer. Her first ad buy of $1 million came in August and her campaign has since spent millions of dollars more. She’s made a dozen trips to New Hampshire, including three in October.

“I think New Hampshire is for us a must-win and it’s a must-win for them too, quite frankly.”

Sanders's campaign, meanwhile, didn't have a state director on the job until August and had about 30 staffers by the end of that month. Its first ad buy (along with a complementary one in Iowa, totaling $2 million) was announced on Sunday, the day after Sanders wrapped up his ninth trip to the state.

Without the same robust structure until the past several weeks, the Sanders operation had been kept afloat by its volunteers. By the time Julia Barnes, the state director, started work, there were already the hundreds of volunteers campaigning on behalf of Sanders, posting signs at their grocery stores, talking to neighbors at waste-transfer stations, selling home-embroidered hats featuring the candidate's name and donating the profits to the campaign.  

The Sanders campaign started behind Clinton’s, and that could make the difference on primary night, according to some of those quoted in the article:

“There’s a key difference between the Clinton campaign and the Sanders campaign in that Clinton made an early investment in recruiting top volunteer organizers, top paid field organizers, political supporters like state senators who make a massive difference,” said Sean Downey, a Democratic consultant who was Obama 2012's New Hampshire political director. ”At the end of the day, those things count for something and it’s one of the many things that’s going to make a difference for Clinton at the end.”

Clinton's effort on the ground in New Hampshire ”looks and feels a lot like the Obama 2008 ground game,” said Jim Demers, who was a co-chair for that campaign. “Volunteers are in the offices on a regular basis, they're targeting, canvassing ... it really does rival that really aggressive campaign of 2008.”

As of Sunday, 5,500 people had volunteered for the Clinton campaign in New Hampshire, and she'd secured the endorsement of nine of 10 Democratic state senators, according to a memo from state director Mike Vlacich marking 100 days until the primary. “We started this campaign in April with a plan and stuck to it,” he wrote. “The result is a strong, durable organization built upon lasting relationships.”

The Sanders team is still working to build that kind of operation, Democrats in the state say. The campaign has been looking for a data director since July and several key staffers, including communications director Karthik Ganapathy and digital director Melissa Byrne, have joined in the past few weeks. The Clinton campaign's data director started work July 1.

The whole article is well worth reading, and explains what may wind up being the difference in New Hampshire for Democrats next February.

Over at Politico is an article with information regarding the ad Sanders is going up with:

The minute-long spot, heavy on his biography and some of his policies, tells viewers the Vermont senator is the son of a Polish immigrant, spent his youth in a Brooklyn tenement and attended public schools before being elected mayor of Burlington, Vermont.

The ad, which begins in black and white before moving to color, also shows an image of Martin Luther King Jr. and notes Sanders marched on Washington in 1963.

Iowa and New Hampshire have traditionally rewarded candidates of both parties who build strong organizations and dedicate the time to meeting with the states’ voters. There’s little doubt Clinton has built the organization necessary to win both states. The question is, can Sanders catch up and build a similar organization? Doing so was the key to President Obama’s nomination win over Clinton in 2008, and effective organization is likely to decide whether Sanders survives to fight deep into the nomination process or sees his campaign effectively end after the New Hampshire primary.