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Republicans are concerned about the Trump campaign's lack of ground game in Arizona

The Show is taking a closer look at the presidential campaigns on the ground in Arizona just six months now ahead of the 2024 election.

While the Biden camp is building a robust ground campaign in swing states like Arizona, some Republican officials in our state and others are concerned that the Trump campaign is not.

In 2020, former President Donald Trump’s campaign called itself a “juggernaut.” In 2024, they have changed tacks. Now they say they’re focusing on a “leaner” and “more efficient” operation.

Yvonne Wingett Sanchez has talked to some GOP operatives here who are still waiting for promised funding, staff or even briefings on new plans.

She’s a democracy reporter for the Washington Post based in Arizona, and she joined The Show to explain more.

Full conversation

LAUREN GILGER: Good morning, Yvonne, thanks for coming back on.

YVONNE WINGETT SANCHEZ: Good morning. Thanks for having me.

GILGER: OK, so I wanna begin here with what these two campaigns look like now, like when we say the Biden campaign, for example, is building an even bigger operation than they did in 2020. What does that look like in Arizona?

WINGETT SANCHEZ: Right. So we're talking about manpower. We're, we're talking about money, we're talking about attention. We're talking about, oftentimes buildings for volunteers, you know, that service sort of hubs in various, you know, battleground communities in, in areas of the county. These are oftentimes super underrated by voters and, you know, reporters even. But for the people who are working on the ground that brick and mortar building that place where they can connect with other volunteers or other staff, it's really a morale booster and it's for a lot of people, it's a really important gathering space as you enter such a, you know, really time intensive, exhausting sort of election cycle. We're not seeing that on the other side of the aisle, President Trump.

GILGER: Let's talk about what the Trump campaign looks like. Officials here, it sounds like are, are worried about the kind of lack of presence.

WINGETT SANCHEZ: They are. this is something that has concerned Republicans in the state for actually many, many months. They have seen what is happening on the other side of the aisle with President Biden and his operation Democrats, lots of field directors, lots of like coordinate democratic staffers that, you know, not only are they trying to focus on the top of the ticket, they're running it all the way down to the state Legislature and beyond, right.

On the Republican side, like they're still waiting for the staffing that's been promised for them. They are, you know, there are no big building openings that are happening. There's not a lot of ribbon cuttings, like not the same sort of operation that we saw in 2020. This feels a lot more like 2016 actually, when Republicans didn't have, you know, a lot of boots on the ground, but they had his celebrity, they had Trump celebrity and they had his, you know, populist sort of movement and that obviously helped him carry the day back in '16.

GILGER: Right. So, I mean, what is the Trump campaign at this point saying about this? Like it sounds like it sounds like this is part of a new strategy and, and that Trump himself may prefer it like this.

WINGETT SANCHEZ: Yeah, I mean, I think that they are certainly of the mind that there are partnerships, there are vendors who can do this sort of, you know, hand to hand combat the, you know, kissing the babies, the shaking hands, the community work, in a way that, that perhaps he can't. He is, you know, tied up right now in the courtroom. He's got other, court dates ahead of him. He, he can do his rallies, he can fly across the country and do his fundraisers, kind of like he did in 2016, right? And it worked and do you need to go to every single state like he did in 2020. I mean, look what it got him, at least here in Arizona, he lost by 10,457 votes. 

So the theory is like you partner with people who know the community well, and you, you let them sort of run that ground game for you. And, you know, they seem that they seem to think that this more targeted sort of volunteer field program will help them really sort of maximize coordinate messages inside of individuals of codes and communities, right?

GILGER: Like they may not need the kind of traditional get out the vote kind of operations that everybody a more traditional candidate might.


GILGER: Let's talk about another aspect to this story. There's a rule change from the federal election commission that the Trump campaign says it could use to its advantage here. Basically allows them to directly coordinate messaging with outside groups in certain ways. What does this say and how might they use it?

WINGETT SANCHEZ: Look, I think it remains to be seen. We're ... stay tuned for more reporting on that. I mean, I think what they do intend on doing is giving turning point and maybe some of its affiliates, this is a pro Trump youth conservative group that has had a lot of influence in Arizona, particularly over the last eight years, decade or so, very well funded huge operation is underway here and in other states to go knock on doors and encourage people to turn their ballots in.

I mean, those are the types of groups that I think the Trump campaign and the RNC is going to be turning to. There's a lot of other groups outside of turning point that, that do this sort of work, this targeted field program work. They're going to be probably looking towards these groups to, to fill in the gaps and that's where that rule change comes in.

GILGER: Yeah. Yeah. And Trump is polling ahead of Biden in Arizona and several other key swing states right now. So I guess the question is, does a campaign that is different, like Trump's need to run in a different way?

WINGETT SANCHEZ: I think that they are going to be testing the bounds of what a modern day campaign for, you know, this moment in American history looks like and, you know, you go out and talk to everyday people, they're not necessarily talking about what's happening in the courtrooms or the 2020 investigation or Jan. 6 or, you know, lawsuits over rule changes to elections. They are talking about gas prices, they're talking about inflation, they're talking about the border, they're talking about public safety and their kids and opportunity for their children, right? They're not mired in the day to day news that some of us often focus so much on as we are.

GILGER: All right, we'll leave it there for now. Yvonne Wingett Sanchez, democracy reporter for the Washington Post based here in Arizona. Yvonne, thank you for coming on. I appreciate it.

WINGETT SANCHEZ: Thanks so much.

KJZZ's The Show transcripts are created on deadline. This text may not be in its final form. The authoritative record of KJZZ's programming is the audio record.

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Lauren Gilger, host of KJZZ's The Show, is an award-winning journalist whose work has impacted communities large and small, exposing injustices and giving a voice to the voiceless and marginalized.