KANSAS CITY — Barack Obama’s campaign plans to triple its paid workers in Missouri to 150, making it one of the largest Democratic campaign efforts in the state’s history.
The 150 workers will be placed in 30 field offices across the state, which has been a key swing state in presidential elections for years.
“It’s unheard of,” veteran Democratic worker Woody Overton of Kansas City told The Kansas City Star. “It’s unbelievable.”
Republican presidential candidate John McCain’s campaign said the plan shows that Obama is desperate to win Missouri. McCain’s campaign has 12 to 14 full-time workers and 10 offices in the state.
“When you feel like you have to put that many people in the state to cover it, means you think you’re in trouble, and you have to have a surge,” said Jack Jackson, McCain’s Missouri co-chairman.
Obama’s campaign is flush with money, reporting $295.52 million at the end of May.
Democratic candidate John Kerry’s 2004 Missouri campaign had about 15 offices and 80 full-time workers, who ultimately were sent to other states weeks before he lost the state to President Bush, who had 50 staffers and about the same number of offices as Kerry.
Obama has said he wants to win all the states Kerry did and capture some states Bush won, such as Missouri and Iowa.
“I think we’ve got a good shot at winning, and I want to be greedy,” Obama said last week. “I want to win as many states as possible.”
But Republicans say Obama’s weak poll numbers in former Democratic states such as Michigan, New Jersey and New Hampshire mean that Obama’s efforts are unlikely to succeed.
Buffy Wicks, Obama’s lead Missouri operative, said grass-root efforts will win the election in the state.
The dozens of field workers already in Missouri have held more than 130 house parties to register voters and identify supporters.
“At the end of the day, Missouri will be won or loss in the margins,” Wicks said. “Field is what gets you over the top. It’s these person-to-person contacts that really give you an edge.”
Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Democrat from Missouri who supports Obama, said the primary battle between the Illinois senator and Hillary Clinton has left Obama with legions of experienced workers.
“Never before have we had a presidential nominee who’s organized and competed in nearly all 50 states prior to the general election,” she said.
But Republicans aren’t conceding anything.
“You can have all the paid people in the world trying to sell a product, but if that product is not what people are looking for, they won’t buy it,” said Lloyd Smith, a longtime GOP campaign strategist in Missouri.