CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — In a state where early organization is essential to a successful presidential campaign, Donald Trump’s New Hampshire operation has the trappings of a legitimate political organization.
He’s got seven full-time staffers in New Hampshire, a sprawling office space in Manchester with walls displaying Trump photos and quotations, and a schedule that’s put him in front of hundreds of voters in the first primary state. As well: nine people working for him in Iowa, six in South Carolina, 15 people based in New York City, a number of policy consultants, a treasurer and a lawyer who specializes in ballot access issues. He’ll be back in New Hampshire for a rally Thursday.
Campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, who exhibits more than a little of the bravado of his boss, says the campaign stacks up against any other. “We have met or exceeded every metric, every expectation of what a campaign should look like,” he said. “These other campaigns — ones that don’t have to prove themselves like we do — cannot compete with a Trump campaign.”
By comparison, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul has six staffers in New Hampshire, while former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie each have four. Christie has two staff members and a senior adviser in Iowa, and no staff in South Carolina, his campaign said.
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But aside from hiring people and hosting carefully crafted events, Trump has yet to begin other vital campaign efforts such as debate preparation. Republican observers here question whether Trump has the wherewithal — or plans — to sustain the kind of campaign New Hampshire voters will expect when his luster begins to wear off.
“It’s the theater of the whole thing,” Alan Glassman, a county GOP chairman, said about Trump’s ability to attract crowds now. “He’s more than what you would get from a politician. He’s out there because he has that celebrity status and he knows it and he’s playing on that.”
Trump, by all measures, is not your typical presidential candidate and he doesn’t plan to run a typical campaign.
The billionaire has committed to self-financing his campaign and has no plans to court donors. Despite that, Lewandowski said, his fundraising report will show some small donations, and more than 112,000 people have contacted the campaign online to volunteer or pledge support.
He’s planned no practice debates and receives mostly bullet-pointed briefing materials on the issues.
No matter, says Lewandowski. “This is a man who has been successful at everything he does, he can grasp the details and become an expert,” he said. And “Trump is quick on his feet and is a master of being on television.”
New Hampshire Republicans say they’re seeing the marks of a formal campaign operation. Trump’s campaign has hired staff members from the state chapter of Americans for Prosperity, a conservative advocacy group that has its office in the same building. The AFP state director, Greg Moore, said he often sees activity in the Trump office and volunteers going in and out.
The campaign has leaders in each of the state’s 10 counties making the Trump sales pitch to friends and neighbors. His people are experienced operatives and Moore said they understand what it takes to campaign here.
“New Hampshire’s always rewarded people who worked hard at a retail-level campaign, and if someone comes in to just do one or two events and leave … those people have not fared well in New Hampshire,” Moore said.
Trump’s visited New Hampshire six times since March for events ranging from house parties to private meetings to large rallies. He’s billed several appearances as “town halls” and taken audience questions, but he’s not the type to stick around to shake every hand.
Steve Duprey, a Republican National Committeeman from New Hampshire, said he’s noticed a more robust organization from candidates such as former Florida Gov. George Bush, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and businesswoman Carly Fiorina than he has from Trump.
“Thus far it seems to me that they’ve been spending more time and efforts on events, just making sure events are well produced, than they are on grassroots organization,” Duprey said.
And not all voters are impressed.
“He’s the only person I don’t see taking it totally seriously,” said Jan Glassman, a Republican activist. “I’m disappointed that he’s running, if he’s going to act like this is ‘The Apprentice.’ This is real life.”
Lemire reported from New York.