2016 Republicans Who Visit Early States the Most Struggle to Gain Traction

Meanwhile, Donald Trump has surged to the front of the pack despite spending far fewer days on the campaign trail this summer.

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Adam Wollner
Sept. 10, 2015, 8 p.m.

In New Hamp­shire, where sev­er­al pres­id­en­tial con­tenders are pin­ning their hopes, it’s a sim­il­ar story. Lind­sey Gra­ham spent 26 days in New Hamp­shire this sum­mer, more than any oth­er can­did­ate, fol­lowed closely by Chris Christie with 25 days. They have little to show for it: Christie is hov­er­ing around the 4 per­cent mark in the state, while Gra­ham is barely re­gis­ter­ing.

Mean­while, Trump holds a com­fort­able polling ad­vant­age over his Re­pub­lic­an com­pet­it­ors in Iowa, New Hamp­shire, and across the coun­try head­ing in­to the fall, des­pite keep­ing one of the light­est sum­mer travel sched­ules. From the end of May through the be­gin­ning of Septem­ber, Trump spent sev­en days in Iowa and five days in New Hamp­shire. And in total, Trump logged just 27 days on the cam­paign trail, few­er than any oth­er GOP can­did­ate aside from long-shots George Pa­taki and Jim Gilmore.

The dy­nam­ic in South Car­o­lina, which has seen far less ac­tion both in terms of cam­paign trips and polling than the two states in front of it on the primary cal­en­dar thus far, is fol­low­ing the same trend. San­tor­um, Hucka­bee, and Rick Perry in­ves­ted the most time there dur­ing the sum­mer, but aren’t any­where near the top of the polls in the state.

The Demo­crats who have traveled most of­ten to Iowa and New Hamp­shire aren’t hav­ing much luck either. Mar­tin O’Mal­ley spent the most days in Iowa of any can­did­ate from his party at 18 days, and Lin­coln Chafee topped the list in New Hamp­shire with 19 days. Neither is mak­ing much of a dent in the polls.

Some fre­quent early-state fly­ers have seen their ef­forts re­war­ded, though. On the GOP side, for in­stance, Carly Fior­ina spent the third-most time in both Iowa and New Hamp­shire this sum­mer, and has seen her stand­ing gradu­ally im­prove in both states. (A strong de­bate per­form­ance last month has a lot to do with that, too.)

Na­tion­al Journ­al‘s Travel Track­er cov­ers the trips that de­clared Demo­crat­ic and Re­pub­lic­an pres­id­en­tial can­did­ates have made out­side of their home states since the 2014 midterm elec­tions. The data is com­piled through press re­leases, news art­icles, and ori­gin­al re­port­ing.

Be­low are some oth­er in­ter­est­ing find­ings from the 951 cu­mu­lat­ive days pres­id­en­tial can­did­ates spent on the cam­paign trail from Me­mori­al Day through Labor Day:

—Iowa and New Hamp­shire con­tin­ue to dom­in­ate 2016 cam­paigns’ it­in­er­ar­ies. Can­did­ates from both parties spent a com­bined 465 days in those two states, ac­count­ing for nearly half of this sum­mer’s total cam­paign days.

—Still, not every can­did­ate booked a trip to those states. Gilmore was the lone White House hope­ful from either party not to vis­it Iowa dur­ing this peri­od, while Hucka­bee was the only one not to swing by New Hamp­shire.

—While the early-vot­ing states of Iowa (241 days), New Hamp­shire (224 days), and South Car­o­lina (78 days) were the most pop­u­lar des­tin­a­tions for can­did­ates, two big-money states—Cali­for­nia (35 days) and New York (29 days)—roun­ded out the top five.

—What about Nevada, the for­got­ten early state? Thir­teen can­did­ates paid a vis­it to the first-in-the-West caucus state, which adds up to a total of 28 cam­paign days. Marco Ru­bio, who along with Jeb Bush is mak­ing early in­roads with the state’s in­flu­en­tial Mor­mon com­munity, spent the most time there (six days).

—The bloc of South­ern states hold­ing nom­in­at­ing con­tests on March 1 also re­ceived plenty of at­ten­tion. Can­did­ates spent a total of 78 days (the same as in South Car­o­lina alone) cam­paign­ing in Alabama, Arkan­sas, Geor­gia, Ten­ness­ee, Texas, Ok­lahoma, and Vir­gin­ia, which have be­come known as the “SEC primary” states.

—John Kasich has placed his em­phas­is squarely on New Hamp­shire, where he spent 17 of his 38 days on the trail this sum­mer. But the Ohio gov­ernor has his eye on the Mid­w­est as well. Michigan was tied with South Car­o­lina for the state Kasich spent the second most time in (five days). “We’re kiss­ing cous­ins, we’re neigh­bors,” Kasich said dur­ing a Ju­ly stop in Michigan.

—Hil­lary Clin­ton and Bush covered the most ground this sum­mer. Clin­ton vis­ited a total 28 states, while Bush made his way to 24 states. (Their totals may be in­flated com­pared to oth­er can­did­ates, however, since their sched­ules have re­ceived more press cov­er­age.)

—All told, only six states did not re­ceive a vis­it from a pres­id­en­tial con­tender this sum­mer: Hawaii, Kan­sas, Montana, Neb­raska, North Dakota, and West Vir­gin­ia. Sunny Hawaii re­mains the only state that hasn’t played host to a can­did­ate since Novem­ber 2014.

Graphics by Libby Isenstein
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