The Democratic National Committee is launching a new field program to expand its footprint beyond the typical battleground states where Hillary Clinton campaign’s already has a large infrastructure.
The program, details of which were shared with NBC News, is launching in Georgia, Arizona and Utah, with plans to expand soon to other states that are either too Republican or too Democratic to typically get much attention from presidential campaigns.
Meanwhile, the Clinton campaign has been stepping up its own efforts in these states, launching a six-figure ad buy Thursday in Arizona after opening two field offices in the state, as well as one in Georgia. The campaign has staff in all 50 states, but is focused on the dozen or so battlegrounds.
“Democrats are competing across the country and building for the future,” said Brandon Davis, the Clinton-installed chief of staff at the DNC. “In states from Georgia to Arizona, demographics and politics are changing quickly — and Democrats are making the investments to make gains now so that we can take majorities later.”
The DNC program, which is designed to live on beyond Election Day, will set up what it calls Victory Leaders Councils — groups of Democratic super volunteers and grassroots activists, along with elected officials — in each state, which will work directly with party headquarters in Washington.
The councils will work with a team under newly named National Field Director Adam Parkhomenko, who was previously on the Clinton campaign and started the group Ready for Hillary before that.
Unlike the Republican National Committee, Democrats have not typically run their field programs primarily through the DNC, but instead have transferred money to state parties to hire organizers.
The DNC recently opened a headquarters in Phoenix and national staffers have been visiting both Arizona and Georgia in the past week to assess capacity. The party’s Southern Political Director, Ron Allen, is relocating to Georgia next week for the remainder of the election.
In the short term, the goal is to take advantage of Donald Trump's weakness in so-called expansion states by boosting Clinton and forcing Republicans to spend precious resources defending them.
Trump, for instance, gave his big immigration speech Wednesday in Arizona, where Democrats have not won electoral votes since 1996, instead of nearby swing states like Colorado or Nevada. GOP vice presidential nominee Mike Pence meanwhile spent two days campaigning in Georgia and will attend a high-profile fundraiser in Utah Thursday.
In the longer term, the effort harkens to former DNC Chair Howard Dean’s 50-state strategy. It aims to build up Democratic infrastructure in places that don’t have much, like red or purple states where Democrats hope to make gains, but aren’t quite battlegrounds.
Meanwhile in blue states, the party plans to harness surplus volunteer energy to help down-ballot candidates in those state and to boost presidential efforts in other states.
“The Victory Leaders Councils are one more way that Democrats are investing in all 50 states,” said interim DNC Chair Donna Brazile.
Organizing for Action, which grew out of President Obama’s campaign, tried to do something similar. But it was set up outside the party apparatus and was deemed to have delivered mixed results.
In addition to a high-profile Senate race in Arizona, Democrats have taken aim at two competitive House seats in the state, and the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee has targeted both chambers of the state legislature.
In Georgia, where the newly announced Victory Leaders Councils includes people who supported Bernie Sanders in the presidential primary, Democrats are hoping to eat into the Republicans' super majority in both chambers of the legislature and also boost other candidates.
“This will leave Georgia with a volunteer infrastructure that lasts beyond 2016,” said Nikema Williams, the first Vice Chair of the Georgia Democratic Party and one of the council’s coordinators.