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Jan 27, 2016 10:41 PM

Steinhauser: The Granite State ground game battle between Clinton and Sanders

NH1 News Political Director

MANCHESTER – Call it a battle between two massive political machines.

While Sen. Bernie Sanders has a double digit lead over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in an average of the most recent surveys of likely New Hampshire Democratic primary voters, when it comes to the ground game, both campaigns seem pretty evenly matched in the Granite State.

The Sanders campaign says they have over 90 paid staff in the first-in-the-nation primary state, with some 6,300 volunteers.

“We have a number of teams around the state that have been out knocking doors in their neighborhoods for months, so we’re really racking up the conversations,” Sanders New Hampshire state director Julia Barnes told NH1 News on Wednesday.

Asked what she thinks may give the Sanders campaign the edge in getting out the vote, Barnes said “I think our edge is our volunteer enthusiasm. We’ve never had to spend a lot of time manufacturing drive for people to get into our offices and work. And the truth is every day that we’re open, every day that we get closer to the primary, more and more people come in and do more and more work. You know the support for Bernie here in New Hampshire just continues to grow.”

The Clinton campaign has a comparable number of offices and GOTV (get out the vote) centers across the state, and touts that more than 7,643 Granite States have taken part in the campaign by joining organizers.

“Hillary for New Hampshire is committed to delivering a grassroots campaign that connects supporters and builds relationships with Granite Staters through one-on-one meetings, small gatherings, and online engagement,” said Hillary for New Hampshire communications director Harrell Kirstein.

“On top of traditional campaign organizing and online outreach, we layered policy discussions reflecting Hillary’s commitment to fighting for families and broadening our coalition of support in New Hampshire. The result is a strong, durable organization built upon lasting relationships that will serve as the foundation of our Get-Out-The-Vote (GOTV) operation on Primary Day,” he added.

Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley may be a distant third in the race for the Democratic nomination, but there’s a lot of energy and activity at his Granite State campaign headquarters, which is located in a modest strip mall on the south side of Manchester. When NH1 News stopped by, staffers were instructing volunteers on the skills of canvassing.

"We feel good about our organization across the state. We’ve been building since June. I know we don’t have as many staff as the other campaigns have out there, but I do think the staff that we do have and the volunteers that we do have, I know that they’ve been working hard since this campaign started and we’ll be in a place where we think it will pay dividends on election night,” O’Malley state director John Bivona told NH1 News.

“I think that the biggest thing that we have going for us is that everywhere that the governor goes we’ve been in a place that folks respond positively to his message. We’ve held more events in the state than any other candidate,” Bivona added. “Not only do we do more events, the governor answered questions every single place he goes and you’ve seen it, everybody’s seen it who’s come to events. I think that will pay dividends. At the end of the day folks don’t care about ads, folks don’t care about polls but what they care about is who showed up, who answered their question, who was honest with them, who talked to them about the issues that are important to them.”

“Those personal touches from the governor, those personal touches from our staff, those personal touches from our volunteers, they might not show up on polls but they’ll show up on election night,” Bivona suggested.

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