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Obama Leads Better Than 3:1 in Field Offices

As Sean has been writing in recent days, it has become increasingly apparent that the McCain campaign has no intention of matching the Obama campaign’s formidable presence on the ground. This becomes especially clear upon reviewing the status of field operations in each state.

The table below represents my best estimate of the number of field offices that each campaign presently has open in each state, or plans to open in the immediate future. I say “estimate” because there is no hard-and-fast source for this information. Each campaign has listing of its field offices on the respective state-by-state pages within its website (Obama example) (McCain example), however, in certain cases, the offices appear to be relics of the primary campaign that have since shut down. In states where the number of offices appeared to be dubious, or the listing did not appear to have been updated recently, I spot-checked the numbers by randomly calling a couple of offices in each state. It appears that all or almost all of the McCain campaign’s offices in California are inactive. But this was a larger problem for Obama, where offices in a large number of states that were important in the primaries, like Kentucky or any number of Super Tuesday states, have long since been shut down.

My best estimate of the current state of the ground game follows. States are ordered by their current rankings in the Tipping Point metric:

Overall, I count 336 offices for Obama and 101 for McCain.

What’s more, the overwhelming majority of McCain offices aren’t really branded as McCain offices. Rather, they are so-called ‘Victory Offices’ that are operated by the local Republican party in that state and which serve all Republican candidates in that state. Some fairly substantial degree of coordination between the national campaign and the state party apparatuses is inevitable in any Presidential campaign. But in Obama’s case, it is Chicago that is driving the bus (to the extent that we’ll probably begin to hear some complaints from local party officials), whereas the McCain campaign is effectively competing for resources and attention with other Republican candidates.

The state-by-state distributions are also interesting. McCain, who has spent almost nothing on advertising in Florida, is instead very heavily invested on the ground there with 35 offices, perhaps reflecting the fact that Florida has one of the nation’s best and most effective state Republican party operations. The other states where McCain has multiple offices open are: Michigan (11), Ohio (9), Minnesota (7), Missouri (7), Wisconsin (6), Virginia (6), Iowa (6) and New Hampshire (3). By contrast, the McCain campaign has just one office open in key states like Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and (somewhat shockingly) Pennsylvania, and no offices open in some second-tier swing states like Indiana and Montana.

The Obama campaign is not really running a 50-state campaign. Instead, they appear to be running an active operation in 22 states: Ohio (33 offices open), Virginia (28), Missouri (27), Florida (25), Wisconsin (23), Iowa (23), Michigan (22), New Mexico (18), Pennsylvania (18), Washington (18), New Hampshire (14), Indiana (14), North Carolina (11), Georgia (11), Colorado (10), Minnesota (9), Nevada (6), Oregon (6), Maine (6), Montana (6), North Dakota (4) and Alaska (4). For my money, the large number of offices open in states like Washington and Maine are unnecessarily defensive — and in Georgia, hopelessly offensive. But generally speaking, the Obama campaign’s distribution does a much better job of matching the Tipping Point map.

Nate Silver is the founder and editor in chief of FiveThirtyEight.