A reasonable person in the position of Donald Trump might have looked at what happened to him in Iowa and concluded that maybe a campaign ground game is at least sort of important after all, especially in small states. However, the Donald Trump campaign does not have a reasonable person in the position of Donald Trump; instead, they have Donald Trump in the position of Donald Trump.
And since Donald Trump has come to the insane conclusion that he really won and that Ted Cruz somehow cheated, he intends to change literally nothing about how his campaign will operate going forward, especially in New Hampshire.
In the lead-up to Donald Trump’s loss in Iowa, staffers sought additional funding for campaign infrastructure and were denied.
Now, six days from the New Hampshire primary and looking for his first win, Trump is still refusing to shake up his ground game. He has added just one paid organizer in the state, a move that came a month ago. Instead, he is pushing ahead with plans to campaign outside of the state in the final week of voting and will count on the glamour of famous surrogates, including his sons, who plan to tour New Hampshire beginning this weekend.
Even as Republicans here warn that Trump does not appear to have the ground game to match his sky-high expectations and the campaign grapples with internal disagreements about investments in infrastructure, campaign manager Corey Lewandowski said Trump should and would stay the course heading into Monday’s primary.
It isn’t just that Trump had no ground game in Iowa, it’s that he underestimated the extent to which Iowans prize their historic role in selecting political nominees. The decision to skip the final debate in Iowa was a horrible mistake for Trump, not just because it denied him airtime and made him look like a coward, but also because it was perceived (correctly) as a slight on Iowa’s prerogative as the “first in the nation” state.
If anything New Hampshire is even more protective of their role as the nation’s first primary. The fact that the other Republicans in the race have basically announced intentions to camp there for the next week, going to every remote watering hole and holding events where they will press the flesh with every small group of voters who will come together matters to New Hampshire voters. Trump’s absence will be noted. His absolute lack of campaign staff, especially relative to the other candidates, will matter.
New Hampshire voters are going to look at this last week and conclude – just like Iowa voters – that Trump has taken a victory in their home state for granted, and that is the surest way of all for Trump to lose it.
Trump always knew that Cruz posed a real threat in Iowa but he is assuming that his lead in New Hampshire is essentially bulletproof. After the public meltdown he is suffering this week, and his stubborn refusal to adjust campaign tactics, he may yet suffer his second embarrassing loss in as many weeks, and if that happens… well, I can’t think of a nicer person to go under the bus than Corey Lewandowski.