CHICAGO — Sen. Bernie Sanders', I-Vt., presidential campaign has been expanding its field operation in early primary states, making dozens of hires as polls show his Democratic rivals surging.
His Iowa team has grown in recent days to include to 43 field organizers — a significant increase from just a few weeks ago. In New Hampshire, the campaign says it has more than doubled its staff and is planning new field office openings across the first in the nation primary state. Advisers say similar moves are taking place in South Carolina and Nevada.
While the increases reflect significant growth, Sanders' state staffing and field office levels still lag behind Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., who has been rising in the polls. On Wednesday, Warren announced seven Iowa and four New Hampshire office openings.
Sanders’ advisers say the larger staff footprint will be used to better organize and mobilize volunteers as part of the “next phase of its organizing strategy.”
“We are seeing a lot of energy in our volunteers,” Sanders Iowa state director Misty Rebik told NBC News. “They’re coming out, they’re showing up, not only at big events when the senator is here, they’re coming up when the senator is not here.”
While campaign manager Faiz Shakir told NBC News these changes simply reflect a planned “strategy to build up through the summer and the fall,” the growth comes as polls show the race shifting.
Former Vice President Joe Biden has maintained a clear first-place position since entering the race, however multiple recent state and national polls have shown Warren challenging Sanders for second place.
When asked whether Warren's growth is threatening his position in the race, Sanders focuses on results that show him ahead when taking on President Trump. “Some of the polls have me doing a lot better than Elizabeth Warren, depending on the poll,” Sanders said to NBC’s Andrea Mitchell.
“If the American people are looking at the candidate who can defeat Trump, I’ll hope they’ll give serious consideration to our candidacy,” he said.
But Sanders has used his campaign to increasingly draw sharp contrasts with Biden, and most recently Warren. On Wednesday, Politico reported that "centrists" of the Democratic Party are warming to Warren.
Sanders retweeted a link to the story, saying, “the cat is out of the bag. The corporate wing of the Democratic Party is publicly ‘anybody but Bernie.’”