New Hampshire: Bernie Sanders' to lose

Manchester, New Hampshire (CNN)In early September, in the small New Hampshire town of Berlin, there were two Bernie Sanders signs along Main Street. Meanwhile, down the block, a sign on Hillary Clinton's Berlin office announced it would be fully operational six days a week.

Sanders had just surpassed Hillary Clinton in the polls and was drawing crowds as large as 1,000 people in the state, much larger than his four-person New Hampshire staff had ever seen before.
Five weeks later, the Vermont senator drew more than 3,000 people at an event held at the University of New Hampshire -- five times Clinton's audience on the same campus.
A week after that, an empty storefront on Main Street in Berlin was blanketed with Sanders signs and volunteers were inside, busy putting up decorations, phone-banking and inputting data after canvassing the neighborhood. The majority of the posts on BernieSanders.com no longer listed events involving only the senator: There was a volunteer rally in Littleton, door-knocking in Nashua and canvassing in Claremont, Hudson, Salem and Berlin.
    On Saturday night more than 20,000 people attended Sanders' campaign event in nearby Boston.
    Sanders' infrastructure now rivals Clinton's in New Hampshire, with more than 40 staffers in the state and nine offices. If August was when Granite State voters started turning out in mass for Sanders, September is when his campaign finally started to build an operation to match it.

    'A meteoric rise'

    Julia Barnes, Sanders' New Hampshire state director, started in early August and said her first two weeks were consumed with interviewing new staff.
    "It's been a meteoric rise in the amount of staff that we have, but our challenge is making sure that our infrastructure can support as many people as want to work," she said.
    Barnes told CNN that it's been surreal to see the enthusiasm for Sanders. Most advertising for events takes no more than a post on social media sites and an email blast.
    That enthusiasm comes in the form of supporters like six-year-old Iain Duggan, who was at a Sanders' town hall in Berlin with his family and is such a dedicated fan he decided to take a selfie in the middle aisle while Sanders was speaking.
    The family is hard to miss at events, as they often show up with Sanders' name spelled out on their T-shirts. The kids are too young to go out and canvas but they want to help in any way they can, traveling around the state every weekend, making drawings to decorate the offices and hanging up the many pictures they've taken of Sanders at events.
    But at the end of the day, that kind of enthusiasm and big events don't equal winning the primary.
    "The only number that matters to anybody is the win number, right?" Barnes told CNN. "I'm looking to build an infrastructure that's going to take the energy that started before us and funnel it into something real. The biggest part of any campaign is spending the time and investing the resources in recruiting, training and motivating volunteers."
    That infrastructure is something that Clinton's team has been building in the state for far longer, not to mention endorsements from key New Hampshire figures within the local and federal government like Gov. Maggie Hassan and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen. The state's largest public union, the National Education of Association in New Hampshire, announced its backing of the former secretary of state ahead of the national organization's endorsement of Clinton on Saturday.
    Sanders was recently endorsed by the New Hampshire branch of the Postal Workers Union, and Barnes said they will be rolling out more endorsements soon, but she's not looking to build an organization that looks the same as Clinton's. Part of that means recognizing the enormous network of supporters Sanders has attracted online. But turning that into offline action could be a challenge, and the campaign still does not have a digital director in the state, although Barnes says that will happen soon.

    Knowing where the votes are

    Playing catch-up to Clinton's operation means not only building the staff on the ground, but building relationships within communities to know where the candidate's supporters live.
    Dante Scala, a political science professor at the University of New Hampshire, said Sanders should look to Al Gore's primary campaign against Bill Bradley in 2000 as a model.
    Gore was an establishment candidate, up against the insurgent Bradley, and ahead in the polls for most of the campaign. When Gore's team realized their lead had shrunk significantly on primary day in New Hampshire, they relied on old-fashioned door-to-door efforts to get out the vote.
    "They were pretty sure based on demographics -- based on education, on social class -- they knew what areas to hit. The question will be for Sanders, on primary night, if it's a close battle, can he do the same thing, and will he know where his votes are coming from?" said Scala. "One out of four Democratic primary voters has actually made up their mind, and so the question is, how do you start to try and anchor some of that enthusiasm and make sure to cement that?"
    Sanders' large public events haven't left much room for the quintessential one-on-one interactions between candidates and voters New Hampshire is known for, but Barnes said smaller events will be planned in the coming months.
    As Sanders' campaign looks to build relationships with those voters, they need canvassers showing up in October who are in it for the long haul. Clinton's team says they have been on the ground for much of the summer, empowering volunteers to take on leadership roles within the campaign.
    The campaign has also stressed the intimate nature of many of Clinton's New Hampshire events, saying that direct engagement with the candidate allows the campaign to make important inroads in communities.
    "We do voter contact and voter activity seven days a week. We have not let up," Clinton state director Mike Vlacich told CNN. "All of this is part of a strategy of building deep connections to the people so that you can withstand the ups and downs of campaigns that come with every candidate."
    Banking on the long haul is a necessity for Clinton right now, she is trailing Sanders in the latest WMUR/CNN poll of Democratic primary voters, 46% to 30%.
    Clinton's campaign also raised only slightly more than Sanders' in third quarter fundraising numbers, with most of Sanders' haul coming from his online operation.

    Pushing for change

    At a recent organizing house party in Nashua, Jason Rodier, an independent who works at a local machine shop, said he was frustrated he kept receiving requests for donations to Sanders' campaign after he signed up on the website to volunteer.
    But when Rodier was finally able to get a hold of a staffer over email, he found out the Nashua campaign office was opening right next door to his house. He has already done some phone-banking and plans to go canvassing.
    At the house party, Rodier told fellow supporters he views Sanders' campaign as the kind of grassroots change that came out of the country's past civil rights movements.
    "Give us the mechanism, teach us how to establish, re-establish, that sense of community, that sense of everybody being able to push in one direction," he said.
    For Sanders' supporters, the election is not just about electing a candidate, it's the idea of launching the revolution the Vermont senator is calling for.
    "I don't want to miss this moment, and I kind of feel like if I do, and I don't put my all into this thing, than I might be missing our time, our chance to do that thing. Because fundamental change needs to happen," Rodier said.