If the program is effective, Republican campaigns will have access to a modern get-out-the-vote operation that has been the hallmark of the Democrats’ success in recent election cycles.
But if it fails to deliver as advertised, Republican candidates will be stuck with another subpar voter turnout program and without the resources the GOP traditionally sent to their campaigns in midterm years.
The RNC is set this week to announce the deployment of yet additional re-enforcements to states with targeted Senate races. Republicans need to flip six Democratic-held seats to win control of the chamber. The effort will include money for personnel, direct mail and phone banks, and will focus on absentee voting and the early vote. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, expressed confidence that the RNC would come through.
“We’ve been good partners and I feel as though we’ll have resources to execute our plan,” Portman, the vice chairman at the National Republican Senatorial Committee, told the Washington Examiner on Wednesday. “It’s an aggressive plan and it’s a broader playing field than we anticipated a year ago.”
In previous two-year election cycles, the RNC would amass a deep cash war chest. Then, about 100 days before Election Day, the committee would begin spending the money on television ads, a hastily deployed national voter turnout program and, in midterm years, large cash transfers to the NRSC and it House counterpart, the National Republican Congressional Committee.
For example, in the 2006 midterm campaign, the RNC transferred $18 million to the NRCC.
This cycle, the RNC has raised more than $130 million, a healthy figure, while maintaining a modest $10 million to $15 million in cash on hand. The RNC reported holding $13.9 million as of July 31. Party officials enthusiastically concede the high cash “burn rate,” explaining that the money the committee raised was spent to build a permanent digital and field campaign, almost from scratch.
“It’s a very unusual burn rate that [RNC Chairman Reince Priebus] has chosen to take us on because it’s the right path for us to optimally engage voters right now,” said Chuck DeFeo, who holds the titles of RNC deputy chief of staff and chief technology officer.
DeFeo expects the ongoing investment to pay dividends for Republicans this fall. He dismissed suggestions by Democratic digital strategists, and even some on the GOP side, that the RNC’s program is not advanced enough to have an effect in November.
DeFeo said several mirco-targeting data products — or smartphone apps — developed by an RNC digital staff of about 50 that are based jointly in Washington, D.C., and a Silicon Valley annex, have been in the field for months. He said these apps in use in some form by nearly every major Republican campaign in the country.
In an interview with the Washington Examiner, DeFeo discussed the capabilities of RNC’s digital voter turnout program.
• Data: The RNC has for two decades maintained a voter file. But it’s enhanced file includes voting and consumer data on every registered voter in America. The committee has integrated email and social media contacts with its file and is constantly updating the data it keeps on the nation’s 190 million registered voters.
• Insight: Every voter in the file has a multi-level score that allows GOP campaigns to build highly granular predictive turnout models. The fancy term for this “data analytics.” DeFeo said the voter file will be constantly updated between now and Election Day, enabling GOP campaigns to adjust their turnout models and messaging on a daily basis, according to real-time feedback from the field.
• Access: The RNC’s data is available in multiple platforms and applications, which DeFeo said allows campaigns to customize what kind of data they access and how they access it. He took a shot at NGP VAN, the leading Democratic data firm, saying the announcement they made last week about customized apps is something the RNC has offered for months.
• Voter Contact: The RNC has developed multiple “walk apps” for campaign operatives and volunteers. These apps can be purchased through the iTunes store and loaded onto a smartphone. They report data to the main hub in real time. DeFeo stressed that the RNC began putting boots on the ground for the 2014 elections a year ago or more. In his view, the RNC GOTV effort for 2014 has been in the field longer than any of the Democratic campaigns and therefore is more likely to deliver the votes the GOP needs to win key races.
“I’m never satisfied with where we’re at,” DeFeo said. “I have confidence in the products we’ve put out.”