Donald Trump Doesn't Have a Florida Strategy Yet

Donald Trump
Donald Trump
Photo by Gage Skidmore | CC2.0

Florida is the biggest swing-state prize in the general election. It's also one of the most complicated to win. So with Donald Trump having all but officially wrapped up the Republican Party's nomination, you'd think his campaign would already be at work plotting its path to victory in the Sunshine State. 

Turns out, nope. Trump hasn't even opened a Florida campaign office yet, and his plans to build a real ground organization in the state are still very much in the air. MSNBC dubs his Florida strategy "nonexistent." 

"There are people who supported him during the primary who continue to keep offices; however, they don't have an official Florida campaign office," Republican Party of Florida (RPOF) communications director Wadi Gaitan told MSNBC. "I'm hesitant to say whether that's going to happen or not. Those are the conversations that are going to happen."

Gaitan also suggested the Trump campaign might simply rely on the infrastructure and general pro-Republican game plan the RPOF already has in place instead of setting up his own operation. 

That isn't a surprise. Trump has glided through the primary season with a campaign apparatus that has been anything but conventional. A lack of a traditional get-out-the-vote efforts likely contributed to his loss in Iowa, but a crowded field of competitors and Trump's mastery of the media ushered him to the nomination. 

It would be a risky bet to assume he could rely on those same factors in a general election — especially in Florida. Trump is already on worse footing in Florida than the previous two Republican nominees. 

According to the latest Real Clear Politics average, Trump sits two points behind Hillary Clinton in an average of Florida polls. 

In 2012, Mitt Romney had a 1.4 point lead over Barack Obama in Florida in the polls. And in 2008, John McCain had an 8.4 point advantage over Obama. 

Obama, of course, went on to win Florida both times, in part thanks to a sophisticated ground game and get-out-the-vote operations. 

Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, will likely repeat that emphasis on a strong ground game in Florida. She's already opened a Florida general election campaign headquarters in Tampa and has a staff full of veterans of Florida politics lined up on her staff. 

Clinton also has the full support of most of Florida's prominent Democrats, which means she'll have plenty of strong surrogates around the state. 

Trump, meanwhile, has proven to be divisive in the state even among elected Republicans. That's especially true here in Miami-Dade. Neither Republican mayors Tomás Regalado (City of Miami) nor Carlos Gimenez (Miami-Dade County) plans to endorse Trump. Same for Republican Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Carlos Curbelo.

Even candidates who may be ideologically similar to Trump are keeping their distance in Florida. Carlos Beruff, a real-estate developer running for U.S. Senate who has called for a ban on all immigration from the Middle East, assured watchers of a Spanish-language political show over the weekend that he wasn't "like" Donald Trump

Oddly, Trump might end up hoping the establishment Republican game plan glides him to victory. 

"It could be that he relies on what we are doing," the RPOF's Gaitain told MSNBC. "We do plan on expanding our program, so he might say, 'That's what I think we need to win Florida, and nothing much more beyond that.'"


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