Republicans say a years-long investment in their ground game efforts after 2012 paid off big-time in 2016, as Donald Trump delivered a shocking upset win over Hillary Clinton and Republicans held control of what had appeared to be a tenuous grip on the U.S. Senate.
“We did millions of organizing hours before Hillary Clinton even hired her first staffer, we’ve been in key communities for four full years, and the RNC built an operation for the Trump campaign that’s larger than any nominee has had in GOP history,” the Republican National Committee said in a memo early Wednesday.
The RNC said rural areas were breaking toward the GOP’s way, the margin in major metropolitan areas was significantly smaller than in 2012, and Republicans turned out “blue-collar voters who are unhappy with the status quo and want change have turned out in larger numbers.”
Nationally, the RNC said it had 7,600 paid staff and trained organizers, knocked on more than 20 million doors and made 10.5 million phone calls.
The RNC said it’s been on the ground in key battleground states like Florida, Ohio, North Carolina and Pennsylvania — all of which Mr. Trump won — since at least 2013. It also touted its efforts in Wisconsin and Michigan, two states that had long gone blue in presidential elections. Networks called Wisconsin for Mr. Trump and he held a narrow edge over Mrs. Clinton in Michigan as of Wednesday morning.
The GOP was also on track to keep control of the U.S. House and Senate. Pundits had said Republicans would likely retain control of the House. But the GOP was defending more than twice as many seats as Democrats in the U.S. Senate as they headed into Tuesday with an effective 54-46 majority.
Still, Republicans held their ground nearly across the board, successfully defending GOP-held Senate seats in Ohio, Florida, North Carolina, Arizona, Wisconsin, Indiana, Pennsylvania, and Missouri.
Ward Baker, executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), said to write off their efforts as a fluke is a mistake.
“In the end, we held our majority exactly because we did what we said we would do: Republicans set a new standard for running effective, data-driven campaigns and the efforts of both the NRSC and our 2016 candidates will serve as a template for cycles to come,” Mr. Baker wrote in a memo Wednesday morning.
“For the first time ever during a presidential cycle, the NRSC built its own voter turnout operation,” he wrote. “We invested $16 million in ground game operations that resulted in over 41,840,000 total voter contacts.”
“The same people who said we could never win are going to be the same people who will try to downplay what we accomplished last night. It wasn’t by accident. It wasn’t luck,” Mr. Baker wrote.