The conventional wisdom in Florida is that the Hillary Clinton campaign has created a much more robust infrastructure in the state compared to the Donald Trump campaign.
There are now 82 Hillary For America/Florida Democratic Party field offices in the state, dozens more than the Trump campaign.
Clinton and her allies have spent more than $50 million on television advertising, while Trump has spent around $30 million.
But Blaise Ingoglia, the always-fiery Republican Party of Florida chair, disputes the notion that the Clinton campaign is stronger in the Sunshine State.
“Hillary Clinton and the Florida Democratic Party [were] absolutely absent over the last 22 months. They’ve had to hire all of these people over the last two months,” he said, claiming that is exactly the opposite of what the RPOF has been doing. “We had operatives on the ground working in these communities, registering people, ID-ing people, talking to people for the better part of two years; we have paid people and people we have been training for the better part of two years.”
Ingoglia’s point is that while the Trump camp may have been slow in developing, the Republican Party of Florida has been harder at work that their Democratic counterparts. “We’re knocking on doors, we’re talking to voters, we’re chasing absentee ballots. We’re doing everything that a campaign should be doing in conjunction with the Trump campaign,” he said.
Ingoglia was in Tampa making the media rounds a day after he was one of the opening speakers at Trump’s latest rally, this one before more than 15,000 people at The MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheater in eastern Hillsborough County. Ingoglia disputes reporting that he’s been MIA at Trump events this year, saying he’s appeared in at least four Trump and/or Mike Pence rallies since the GOP convention in late July.
Earlier in the day, Democratic strategist Steve Schale tweeted Democrats were in a better position regarding the early/absentee vote at this juncture than they were in 2012 when Barack Obama ultimately won the state by less than one percent.
Ingoglia isn’t buying it.
“The first thing I would say is that if you look since 2010, the trend has been for more people to vote early and especially by vote-by-mail,” he said. “Vote-by-mail has become very popular in Florida and the Democrats have been pushing the vote-by-mail ballots very heavily since 2012, 2014, and 2016. So I’m not concerned because all the Democrats are doing are taking away early voters and Election Day voters and moving them up and getting them to vote earlier by voting absentee and early vote.”
Current polls show on average Clinton is leading Trump by approximately four percentage points in the Sunshine State. Throughout the year, however, there have been those who say that there is a “hidden Trump vote,” that isn’t being captured by pollsters. Count Blaise Ingoglia as one Republican who believes in that theory.
“That exists — that is real,” Ingoglia insisted. “If you take the number for the people coming out of the presidential preference primary who never voted before, that number was 150,000. So those people are going to be voting in the general election, and the overwhelming majority of them are going to be voting for Donald Trump. If you take into account that general elections bring out a lot more voters, I think that you can expand upon that number.”
“I think this race is going to be a lot closer than what people are predicting,” he surmised, citing the numbers from GOP stronghold Collier County to provide ballast for his argument. There was a record 7,633 participating in the first day of early voting there on Monday.
On Monday, Simone Ward, the Florida state director for Hillary for America, wrote in a memo that, “Our organizers and thousands of volunteers have been able to build a game-winning ground operation designed to engage, register, and turn out Florida’s expansive and diverse electorate. We feel confident that we will deliver the state of Florida for Hillary Clinton and Democrats up and down the ticket, but realize there’s much more work to be done.”
Ward also noted 259,000 new Democrats were added to the voting rolls this year, a seven percent advantage over the GOP, which added 206,000 registered Republicans. “In fact, Democrats have added nearly 692,000 new voters to the rolls since 2012 versus 593,000 Republicans — and the trends continue to go upward in our favor,” she wrote.
Some Democrats have been getting excited about new polls that show Senate hopeful Patrick Murphy getting closer to Marco Rubio, though there hasn’t been a credible poll showing Murphy actually leading the race.
Ingoglia predicted the GOP incumbent would win the seat by four or five percentage points.
Since being elected in an upset over Rick Scott’s choice to chair the RPOF back in January of 2015, Ingoglia has emphasized that his raison d’être has been to move Florida into the red column in the 2016 presidential election, after it went for Obama in ’08 and 2012. We asked if he feels he’s done everything he can to make that happen, acknowledging the fact that some factors are beyond his control (such as the behavior of his party’s standard-bearer).
“I will say I have an amazing bunch of people who make up the Republican Party of Florida, both staff and the members of the RPOF. We have busted our butts over the last two years preparing the party for this election. I am proud of the work that we have done, we have literally worked day and night, night and day to rebuild the party infrastructure for the future. So to answer your question, yeah, we will continue building the party after this election.”