The RNC: In Communities and There to Stay
Back in January, I shared with RedState my vision for the RNC’s field operation and some of the lessons we had learned from the 2012 election:
As a party, we must recognize that we live in an era of permanent politics. We must stop living nominee-to-nominee, campaign to campaign. As we saw this election, our opponent benefited from a multi-year head-start. Now is the time to begin to develop a permanent, national field infrastructure and get a head-start of our own.
Since then, the RNC has crafted a plan, redesigned our operation, prioritized reaching new communities, and dedicated ourselves to making voter engagement a permanent effort.
We will put boots on the ground in all 50 states earlier in the election cycle than ever before. And once in place, they will stay there. We’re not building up and tearing down anymore; we’re building a foundation.
Currently we have twelve state directors in place—in Virginia, New Jersey, Florida, Michigan, Wisconsin, Montana, West Virginia, Louisiana, Texas, California, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. This is unprecedented and it’s just the beginning.
State Directors are the main point of contact between state and local Republican Parties and candidates and the RNC Regional Political Directors. They work with our engagement directors and state parties to coordinate get-out-the-vote campaigns, data collection and strategic testing of new technology. They coordinate field staff and the building out of precinct teams, and they develop statewide event plans for volunteers and staff.
The teams in New Jersey and Virginia are, appropriately, the largest, with a particular focus on minority engagement. We were on the ground in those states earlier with more people and more offices than we’ve ever had.
We already have over 125 staffers in the field; we have more people out in the communities than we do in RNC headquarters, and that’s the way it should be. We can’t win with a top-down operation. We have to be bottom-up, community-based.
We will continue building in the months to come. By the end of this year—an “off year”—we will have hundreds of staff fanned out across the country and nearly 100 field offices. And they won’t just be going to the places where we typically win; they’ll be building relationships in communities where we haven’t been but need to be.
Our long-term goal is to use our 2013 and 2014 efforts to build a permanent campaign that will benefit the party in the 2016 presidential cycle and election cycles to come. The RNC will be in communities competing for voters, not months, but years before Election Day.
In the short-term, we will be test-driving new ways of doing business, especially when it comes to voter contact and data analysis. We’ll debut new tools that will make data more accessible to all Republican candidates and committees and more useful for all campaigns.
Working closely with state and local parties, we’ll be deploying new applications and software that will be developed in-house under the leadership of our first ever Chief Technology Officer, Andy Barkett. Andy’s no Republican operative; he comes to us from Silicon Valley after successful stints at Facebook and Google. The knowledge that comes from living in and being a part of a community is more valuable than anything a D.C. consultant can tell us.
Winning elections is about earning voters’ trust. But you can’t earn people’s trust if they only hear from you a few months before an election. We can’t parachute in six months before voters go to the polls and expect to win over hearts and minds—especially not when the other side has been their months or years in advance.
That’s why our focus is on building a permanent presence. That’s why we’ve done away with looking at states as red and blue states. We’re not writing off any voter or any state.
As I said in January, growing the party to be more welcoming and more inclusive does not require abandoning our principles. It doesn’t require resorting to the cynical, divisive identity politics of the Democratic Party; it means embracing our common identity as freedom-loving Americans.
As we continue making progress in implementing this plan—the likes of which the Republican Party has never seen—I will never lose sight of that fact. We don’t want to win for the sake of winning; we’re in this because our conservative principles and values are right for America.