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GOP bets on voter enthusiasm, ground game advantage and late fundraising surge

While the president and his surrogates are barnstorming swing states with large, in-person rallies, Biden has opted for online events and huge swing state and national ad buys.

Updated: October 26, 2020 - 11:17pm

With a tight race in battleground states nationwide and Election Day fast approaching, Republicans are banking on voter enthusiasm, a record 150 million voter contacts through door-knocks and phone calls, and a $26 million fundraising surge following Thursday's presidential debate.

Polling by Just the News with Scott Rasmussen from earlier this month found Donald Trump voters 20% more likely than Joe Biden voters to be excited about their respective candidate. The poll found that 30% of Biden voters see him as "the lesser of two evils."

"Enthusiasm, excitement — that's what our voters have that the Democrats don't have. I don't blame them," Hogan Gidley, Trump 2020 press secretary, said on the television program "Just the News AM." "It's not about going out and voting for something you don't like. It's about going and voting for something you do like. That's a much bigger motivating factor ... People want to get out and vote for Donald Trump. He has a patriotic, unifying, uplifting message. And he's actually been successful improving their lives." 

Republican Party officials announced Friday that Trump Victory, the joint ground game initiative of the Republican National Committee (RNC) and Trump's 2020 campaign, surpassed the voter contact record previously set by former President Obama's reelection campaign in 2012 and nearly doubles the 71 million total voter contacts the group made in 2016. Trump Victory was planning to spend nearly $300 million by the end of the 2020 cycle on its overall voter contact program, including field, data and digital efforts. 

While the president and his surrogates are currently barnstorming swing states with large, in-person rallies, Biden has opted for online events and huge national and swing-state ad buys as an alternative voter contact touch point method. The Biden campaign only on Oct. 1 announced that it would begin door-knocking with just 32 days before the election. The Biden campaign previously had condemned door-knocking as unimportant and unsafe, repeatedly suggesting in-person contacts were a threat to public health during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Biden campaign did not respond to request for comment from Just the News.

"As President Obama's running mate in 2012, Joe Biden witnessed the power of a muscular field operation," RNC National Press Secretary Mandi Merritt said in a press statement Friday. "The fact that he has totally abandoned this strategy — with no chance of making it up just days before an election — is mind-blowing. The RNC and Trump campaign have built the largest political operation in history fueled by volunteer enthusiasm and a genuine belief in a candidate, and this will make all the difference on Nov. 3."

While an imperfect predictive measure, earlier this year Trump defeated Biden in 2020 primary vote turnout for key swing states like Ohio and Pennsylvania, even after Biden had essentially sewn up his Democratic Party's nomination. Citing the strong turnout for Trump in the primaries, his campaign sees an enthusiasm and base intensity gap favorable for the president, as the Democratic Party has been locked in fierce internecine battle dating back to at least the 2016 presidential race.

Just the News reported in August that Pennsylvania voter registration data shows that Republicans are gaining voters at five times the rate of Democrats. Republicans also cut into Democrats' voter-registration numbers in key states like Florida and Arizona. Earlier this month, Republicans cut Democrats' advantage in Florida voter registration by more than half since the 2016 elections. The difference is now 134,242 registered voters, compared to the 327,435 advantage Democrats had four years ago when President Trump won the swing state over Democrat Hillary Clinton by just 1.2 percentage points, according to new Florida Department of State data.

"It's shrinking that divide between [registered Republicans and] registered Democrats," Gidley said. "That's very important because Donald Trump won all of those states last time, now we have more Trump voters ... That's a an army of volunteers that even Barack Obama couldn't have ever dreamed of."

The RNC and Trump campaign said Friday that their authorized joint fundraising committees announced a record-breaking $26 million haul around Thursday's final presidential debate. The committees said this was the reelection effort's largest digital fundraising day ever, raising 30% more and reactivating 20% more past donors than previous debates. 

"In the final days of 2016 we saw a surge in online donations which preceded a rise in public polling, leading directly to victory," Gary Coby, Trump 2020 digital director, said in a press statement Friday. "That surge is here again — triple in size and a week earlier than in 2016."

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