For nearly two years, potential Republican presidential candidates have visited New Hampshire to meet with activists, interview with local media, and speak at party functions. If they're lucky, these White House hopefuls have a few paid staffers to help them on the ground.
But that's not much compared to the team Hillary Clinton has put together in New Hampshire less than a week into her presidential campaign. The former US secretary of state has only been to the state once in seven years, but her campaign has brought on 19 staffers for the Granite State operation, according to a Clinton campaign official.
This weekend, Republican White House hopefuls will gather in Nashua for the First-in-the-Nation Leadership Summit — less than 10 months before the primary. This period before the New Hampshire primary is often called "the invisible primary," because much of the action occurs away from television cameras. During this time, there are three ways to judge how a candidate fares: money raised, polling, and ground organization in the early nominating states.
The Globe contacted 26 current and potential presidential campaigns about their staffing levels in New Hampshire. Nearly half of them didn't have a paid staffer in New Hampshire.
After Clinton, the New York businessman Donald Trump had the second-largest staff with four aides. Four more Republicans — US Senator Rand Paul from Kentucky, former Texas governor Rick Perry, former Florida governor Jeb Bush, and Wisconson Governor Scott Walker — have three paid aides in the state apiece. No other potential Democratic campaign has any full-time staff in the state.
In New Hampshire, the Clinton campaign is headed by Mike Vlacich, who managed US Senator Jeanne Shaheen's hard-fought reelection last year. Clinton has already hired two press officials, a political director and three more grassroots aides. Most recently, they've added a dozen staffers working on an integrated field and digital operation meant to identify supporters and get them involved in the campaign.
Leading that grass-roots effort are two of latest hires: State Organizing Director Meagan Gardner and Digital Director Colin Oldenburg, according to a Clinton aide. Gardner arrives in New Hampshire from the White House, and she has experience in Iowa and in organizing Northeastern states for President Obama's campaigns. Oldenberg was the deputy digital director in New Hampshire for Obama's reelection in 2012 and last year worked worked as the digital director for Democrat Mary Burke's campaign against Walker.
At a time when Clinton is dominating in polls among New Hampshire Democrats, her investment on the ground in the Granite State shows a level of commitment — one that could be meant to carry into the general election next year, according to University of New Hampshire professor Dante Scala.
Scala notes that the Clinton operation might be incorporating the lessons of Shaheen's win over Republican Scott Brown in the state's US Senate contest last year.
"They survived that campaign by virtue of staffing, voter contact, and getting out the vote," Scala said. "I think they are thinking they don't need 19 staffers on the ground already to beat Martin O'Malley in the Democratic primary, but they see the primary as a dry run for the general election in a swing state."
|Former US secretary of state Hillary Clinton||D||19|
|New York businessman Donald Trump||R||4|
|Kentucky Senator Rand Paul||R||3|
|Former Florida governor Jeb Bush||R||3|
|Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker||R||3|
|Former Texas governor Rick Perry||R||3|
|Former CEO Carly Fiorina||R||2|
|New Jersey Governor Chris Christie||R||2|
|Florida Senator Marco Rubio||R||1|
|Texas Senator Ted Cruz||R||1|
James Pindell can be reached at James.Pindell@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jamespindell.