"You're tracking multiple candidates over multiple media markets and states over a short period of time," said one strategist with experience running a super PAC, who did not want to be named discussing campaign hiring strategy. "So operatives running these things have to be competent to do this, and "¦ they don't grow on trees."
Digital poses the biggest staff problem for campaigns. While the need for sharp digital strategy is hardly a new phenomenon in politics, Republicans still suffer a shortage of quality operatives with major campaign experience, especially compared to Democrats. One Republican who works in the field, who did not want to be named discussing campaigns' hiring maneuvers, said some presidential pre-campaigns were asking around about digital strategists even before the 2014 election was over.
"There's a supply-and-demand situation," the strategist said. Without the right attention to digital detail, candidates could miss out on critical fundraising opportunities and new ways to reach voters, especially those who watch less TV.
Another GOP digital firm, Targeted Victory, is mulling whether to take on multiple Republican presidential clients in 2016. The company, which came in for severe criticism after Mitt Romney's expensive but failed 2012 presidential campaign, has rebounded and grown considerably since then—enough so that it could devote resources to multiple candidates. Targeted Victory "is in a unique position, and they already have relationships with so many people," said one Republican consultant.
"With 100 people, we have that ability," said Zac Moffatt, cofounder of Targeted Victory and the digital director for Romney's 2012 campaign. "The question is the comfort level of the campaign and the skill set we're providing. It depends what people mean when they are hiring the firm. "¦ I can envision a scenario where one candidate may use Targeted Victory for online advertising and not for anything else."
Presidential campaigns are on a similarly intense hunt for legal talent. "Most people think campaign legal issues are all FEC, but that's a smaller percentage of the issues to tackle," said one Republican attorney. "There's contracts, ballot access, delegate selection and allocation to name a few. You're basically establishing a $100 million business in a very condensed time frame and not a lot of people have been through that process before and understand all the issues associated with it."
So a select few Republican campaign lawyers are taking meetings with representatives from multiple campaigns each, trying to suss out which would be the best fit. "There is fierce competition," the GOP attorney added.
The legal side of campaigns gets relatively little attention when things are running smoothly, but the occasional disaster shines a light on how important it is. In the 2012 primaries, candidates including Jon Huntsman and Newt Gingrich failed to qualify for the ballot in key states, thus missing any chance to show momentum for their underfunded efforts in those primaries.