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RNC Has Few Operatives On The Ground In Swing States, Local GOP Leaders Say

One grassroots leader said she didn’t ‘think their operations are up and running yet’ but expects ‘robust’ help to come eventually.

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The Republican National Committee (RNC) appears to have little to no on-the-ground operations in key battleground states despite former President Donald Trump narrowly leading President Joe Biden, local GOP and conservative group leaders tell The Federalist. They expressed optimism, however, that the RNC will step up its efforts and suggested it’s “typical” for the RNC not to have its ground game going until about now.

Grassroots organizations are targeting key states such as Arizona, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Wisconsin, Nevada, and Texas to improve “election processes at the administrative level well before Election Day,” director Josh Findlay of the Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Elections Protection Project told The Federalist. 

Findlay touted the groups’ “huge successes” throughout battleground states with regard to drop box security, absentee ballot procedures, observer access and absentee processing centers. But despite all the work being done on the ground to elect Republicans, the RNC doesn’t seem too involved – though grassroots leaders are hopeful that won’t be the case for long. 

Findlay said he believes RNC Chairman Michael Whatley “will get the proper infrastructure in place to secure the upcoming election.”

“I have worked with Chairman Michael Whatley extensively in the past, and he knows the weight that party bears in making sure elections run smoothly,” Findlay said, adding that while grassroots “excel at identifying local election integrity issues and fighting for solutions to those issues,” it’s the political parties that have the most resources to “recruit, train, and shift the large numbers of poll workers and poll watchers needed for election season.”

Arizona

Trump lost Arizona by 10,457 votes in 2020 after winning it in 2016 by 91,234 votes. It’s key to his reelection. But the current on-the-ground effort to ensure a Trump victory rests on the backs of grassroots activists and appears to lack robust national party support.

“There is a very active effort on the ground. We have over 15,000 grassroots activists in the state,” President of the Arizona Free Enterprise Club Scot Mussi told The Federalist. Mussi said the group is focused on get-out-the-vote efforts and outreach to voters, especially Hispanic and faith-based communities.

“This is a total team effort here in Arizona,” Mussi said. “There are multiple organizations, on the ground here in Arizona, engaged in these efforts.”

So far, however, the RNC doesn’t seem to be one of them. Mussi said he hopes the RNC will step up its involvement for the general election, saying he didn’t see a huge presence from the national party in 2016 but “we’d love to see any increase in engagement from the RNC at this point.”

“I think many swing states can speak to this — it feels like here in Arizona, the Left is pouring in millions of dollars into Arizona into their own ground game and it doesn’t seem, at least what we’re seeing on the ground, that there’s the same emphasis from a lot of these national groups, and that includes the RNC,” he said. “Our hope is that they come in and they come in big to assist with a lot of these efforts.”

The Arizona Republican Party did not respond to repeated inquiries from The Federalist nor did the RNC respond to inquiries about their involvement in the state.

Pennsylvania

Trump lost Pennsylvania in 2020 by 81,660 votes after winning the state in 2016 by 44,292. Grassroots activists are gearing up to flip the state again come November.

The Sentinel Action Fund (SAF) is one of those organizations focused on turning out “low-propensity voters” via absentee ballots, early and day-of voting with its year-round operation, SAF President Jessica Anderson told the Federalist.

Anderson explained that SAF — which is dedicated to winning Senate races in Montana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania but still focusing on electing Republicans down-ballot — has also teamed up with the Republican State Legislative Committee and Keystone, the super-PAC for Pennsylvania Senate candidate Dave McCormick.

When asked whether the RNC has been working with SAF in Pennsylvania, Anderson said she wasn’t “sure how to answer that since I don’t think their operations are up and running yet.”

“As the RNC kind of gets up their efforts after the changeover of their leadership — and Lara Trump has been, I think fully embracing all of this — I have to expect that they will put a robust office in place and then at that point we will work with them,” Anderson said.

When asked if he’s seen anyone from the RNC on the ground locally, Erie County GOP Chairman Tom Eddy told The Federalist “not here.”

The county has long been a bellwether for the presidential race, with the candidate winning the county also winning the general.

During the 2016 race, in which Trump won the county by fewer than 2,000 votes, his team set up an office in Erie County that brought in outside resources and had 10-12 people canvassing each Saturday, Eddy told The Federalist. Trump lost the county in 2020 by fewer than 1,500 votes.

“I’d give anything to have a few people on the ground here helping,” Eddy told The Federalist, adding, however, he thinks “this is typical” for RNC involvement at this point in the game.

Eddy says the RNC usually works with the state party, which in turn works with counties. The Pennsylvania Republican Party did not respond to repeated inquiries from The Federalist but an RNC representative told Eddy they were looking to place three or four staffers in the area starting in mid-May.

Eddy said he had to “give the Democrats credit … on the ground here in Erie” for their current canvassing efforts.

The Pennsylvania Democratic Party, in coordination with Biden’s campaign, has set up more than a dozen offices across Pennsylvania, according to the Pennsylvania Capital Star. The offices are reportedly set to “host training sessions for volunteers, canvassing kickoffs and volunteer recruitment events.” Democrats have also placed offices in swing counties, like Erie, to reach voters, according to the report.

When asked about their on-the-ground operations in Pennsylvania, the RNC pointed to poll watchers during the primary race. Gates McGavick, a senior adviser to Whatley, said “The RNC has worked closely with the PA GOP and county parties across Pennsylvania to place trained poll watchers on the ground in each of the Keystone State’s 67 counties for Primary day.”

RNC Election Integrity Communications Director Claire Zunk forwarded an RNC press release about its recruiting of primary-day poll watchers and “volunteer lawyers.” The release also said the RNC “activated more than 2,200 poll watchers” across the state. The Federalist has inquired for additional information but did not receive a response. The RNC also didn’t give details about what it is doing on the ground between now and November to increase voter registration, support mail-in ballot initiatives, and increase voter outreach.

North Carolina

North Carolina Election Integrity Team President Jim Womack worries his state could swing for Biden: “The RNC hirings are helpful to some degree, but the real movement in the state, the real groundwork, is done by the activists and activists’ groups across the state.”

Womack estimates there are “easily 75-100” grassroots organizations working statewide to increase “neighborhood level organizational activity,” making North Carolina’s local efforts “one of Trump’s strongest states.” Womack highlighted activist groups unaffiliated with the RNC like Asheville Tea Party, Conservative Coalition of NC, the Liberty Party, and North Carolina Grassroots Government as doing “quality work.”

While he doesn’t know the RNC’s plans for North Carolina, Womack says he hopes it will be “well-resourced” since RNC Chairman Whatley comes from the state. In the 2020 contest, the RNC sent regional representatives “that were like deputy campaign managers.” They gave trainings and distributed campaign materials.

Womack said since Trump was automatically the nominee in the 2020 primary, there wasn’t as big a push so it is difficult to compare to this year. The NCGOP did not respond to a request for comment nor provide any response about their efforts in the state.

On April 19, the RNC announced the launch of a “100,000 person strong election integrity program” comprised of “volunteers and attorneys,” but the RNC did not respond when asked by The Federalist how many of those 100,000 people had been recruited so far.


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