We all know the answer’s ‘yes’, of course. But when it comes to elections, the size of your campaign team is generally a great indicator of how your campaign is fairing. More staff suggests more money; more money suggests you’re fundraising well, which means people believe there’s reason to back you. And beyond paid staff, more volunteers suggests you’ve got momentum and people have reason to get behind you and support your cause. Lots of staff and lots of volunteers? You’re probably on course for victory.
It was announced today that Trump’s fired his much-maligned campaign manager Corey Lewandowski. No great loss to the world there – by all accounts, the guy seems like a total douche. The sacking was followed quickly by another staff member going – Head of Comms for Trump’s caucus operations team, Michael Caputo, who – displaying immense comms naivety – tweeted ‘Ding Dong the witch is dead’ about Lewandowski’s departure.
What’s amazing about this isn’t that campaign staff have been dumped. Or even that it’s likely a reflection on Trump’s campaign dive-bombing and him appreciating he needs to take drastic steps. It’s the hole this leaves in Trump’s team. Yesterday, he had just 30 full time staff on his campaign team. Today, he’s lost 7% of that team – including the head of his campaign.
That’s an amazingly small team for a modern campaign: the UK Labour Leadership candidates had staff teams not far off that size. But the real comparison is with Hillary – who has hundreds on her books. As well as a paid organiser in every state, she has teams for data, analytics, digital, technology, marketing and merchandise, finance, paid media…etc. And that’s not even counting her core team of advisers and strategists.
Trump has of course repeatedly argued that he thinks data and digital are overplayed as game changers. To some extent he’s right – winning the air war, and mobilizing a base, are still hugely more important than the 2 or 3% swings which a good digital operation can give.
But it’s not like Trump’s brought in expertise even on these fronts. One only needs to look to his ‘accidental’ press sec, Hope Hicks, is a 27-year old poached from his corporate operation, who has next to no political experience.
Of course, it’s likely Trump’s operation will swell when the race moves from the Primaries to the Presidential campaign proper. But it bodes badly for Trump that his current situation seems to be getting worse, rather than better.
Ultimately, the margins in elections are tight. For a man who has already seemed immensely sensitive over size this election, it’s surprising he hasn’t bulked up where it matters – campaign HQ.