Not a good sign, especially in a critical swing state.
Conservative activists, operatives and officeholders are anxious about John McCain’s Nevada campaign, fearing the Arizona senator lacks the ground operation and commitment to win Nevada.
Concern grew last week after McCain canceled a Nevada visit. A new Reno Gazette-Journal poll showed McCain trailing by 7 percentage points, with Democratic challenger Sen. Barack Obama competing in traditional Republican strongholds here.
“People I talk to wonder where the campaign is,” said Chuck Muth, a conservative activist who regularly speaks to dozens of other conservatives — north and south — through his newsletter.
The McCain camp won’t say how many paid staff members are here. Rogich said he did not know the exact size of that staff, but said it is “close to 30.”
The Obama campaign has about 100 paid staff members in the state.
A few Republican operatives, who declined to be named, offered blunt criticism.
The McCain campaign is “a joke,” one said. “There’s not a campaign in Nevada. A couple of guys, running around, being incompetent. Or even worse, arrogantly incompetent.”
The consultant said there was no discernible McCain ground game, which is political jargon for the massive effort needed to find likely supporters and get them to the polls.
He did hedge a bit, saying that if some earth-shattering event were to occur, McCain could still win in Nevada. Otherwise: “There’s not one single positive note for Republicans. I couldn’t be more pessimistic.”
The gloom is not surprising, given national polls showing Obama opening a lead and McCain playing defense in traditionally Republican states, which had included Nevada until Democratic registration drives have given the party an advantage of 80,000 voters.
The numbers and energy of a campaign’s field operation are often more telling than any opinion polls. Obama has more paid staffers on the ground in Nevada than McCain, and they’re a lot more fired up than their Republican counterparts. If this becomes a pattern that is being repeated in other swing states, McCain had better start practicing his concession speech. (Hat tip to Jonathan Martin)