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Trump battleground plan relies on skeptical GOP leaders

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump spoke Saturday at a rally in Phoenix.Nancy Wiechec/Reuters

DES MOINES, Iowa — His campaign roiled by infighting and Republican revolt, Donald Trump is working to address a battleground state staffing shortage that highlights his reliance on a skeptical GOP establishment.

The New York billionaire has slowly begun to add paid staff in a handful of swing states — Wisconsin and Iowa, among them — even as campaign officials concede the presumptive presidential nominee has little desire or capacity to construct the kind of massive national operation that has come to define modern-day White House campaigns. Trump plans instead to depend upon the national Republican Party to lead state-based efforts on his behalf, while Democrat Hillary Clinton has had an army of staff dedicated specifically to her campaign in general election battlegrounds for months.


‘‘It would be disingenuous and wrongheaded to take a playbook that has been used over and over again,’’ said Trump senior aide Karen Giorno, in charge of an 11-state Southeastern bloc including battlegrounds Florida, North Carolina, and Virginia. ‘‘We are creating the playbook.’’

The unconventional approach reflects Trump’s disdain for traditional Republican campaign practices and inclination to implement businesslike decision-making. It also carries substantial risk.

If, for instance, Trump is lagging Clinton badly in polls come early fall, there is nothing to stop the RNC from cutting its losses and focusing instead on saving Republican control of the Senate or other competitive contests also on the ballot this November. Beth Myers, who managed 2012 presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s campaign, said White House candidates have unique needs that a broader-brush approach cannot always meet.

‘‘The presidential campaign is going to want to have someone on the ground whose interest is 100 percent Donald J. Trump,’’ said Myers, who is not involved in the 2016 Trump or RNC efforts. ‘‘Most campaigns by June would have that person in place in key states.’’


Trump is largely outsourcing what’s typically called a campaign’s ground game, which includes the labor-intensive jobs of identifying and contacting potential supporters.

Trump’s plan to rely on his party’s establishment comes as party leaders lashed out at his message in recent days.

GOP leaders including House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell this week condemned Trump’s renewed call, as part of his antiterrorism strategy, to impose a temporary ban on foreign Muslims allowed to enter the country. Republican officials reacted with similar disdain after Trump insinuated President Obama may sympathize with terrorists in the wake of the weekend Orlando massacre.