Exclusive: RNC to Revamp GOTV Operations

RNC Chairman Priebus on Monday will unveil the findings of the autopsy report he commissioned after the 2012 elections. (Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — The Republican National Committee is moving forward with a comprehensive overhaul of its antiquated voter turnout operation, including a focus on fixing a collection of broken state parties, CQ Roll Call confirmed Friday.

The effort will be directed by the RNC’s political department, under the supervision of political director Chris McNulty and a full-time state party director — a new committee position created as part of the get-out-the-vote overhaul. The modernized national field operation will focus on improving voter registration, identification and turnout through a “bottom-up” approach that reinvigorates the party organization at the precinct, congressional district and state levels.

Under this strategy, the RNC plans to immediately reform its training program for grass-roots activists to encompass the committee’s new attention on data gathering, technology and analytics with a complete revamp of its political education department slated to conclude by May 1. Similar to President Barack Obama’s successful formula, the RNC wants to transform its GOTV into an ongoing national program that relies on “peer-to-peer” contact where people live, work, worship, learn and buy their coffee.

“This is a big initiative in which we will be simultaneously revamping our grass-roots organizing infrastructure and voter contact programs from top to bottom while integrating a minority engagement structure to work in unison toward the goal of electing more Republicans,” McNulty told CQ Roll Call. “The key to the entire grass-roots infrastructure will be working with state and county parties toward a new and exciting bottom-up precinct team structure. All of this will be driven by the new and improved data infrastructure and analytics at the RNC.”

Overhauling the RNC’s field operation was one of several recommendations included in an autopsy report of the 2012 elections that RNC Chairman Reince Priebus is scheduled to unveil Monday.

The Growth and Opportunity Project, as the forthcoming report is known, was developed by a team of five longtime GOP operatives appointed by Priebus. It is due to be released on the heels of this week’s Conservative Political Action Conference, where grass-roots activists have held several panels examining 2012 and what conservatives and the GOP must do to be successful in 2016. Panels at CPAC have examined immigration, minority outreach and candidate recruitment.

The GOP’s immediate priority is success in this year’s off-year elections and the 2014 midterms. The RNC’s commitment to House and Senate races could be evident through two recent senior staff hires, including McNulty, who previously served in Speaker John A. Boehner’s political operation and new RNC chief of staff Mike Shields, who last cycle served as political director of the National Republican Congressional Committee.

But it’s with an eye toward 2016 and winning the next presidential election that the Growth and Opportunity Project was commissioned. The report, a portion of which was obtained by CQ Roll Call, describes the RNC’s overhauled voter turnout strategy this way:

  • The new political geographical center of the political infrastructure will be precinct organizations rebuilt in coordination with state and county Republican parties. From there we will organize out based on Congressional District on up to the state level.
  • This is a four-year plan with an initial goal to win in 2013 and 2014 but looking further ahead to the 2016 presidential. We will begin phasing in this new model immediately and have already started the interview process.
  • In the next month we will hire a full-time state party director, whose number one priority will be the future of state parties, and who will report to the chairman and Political Director. He or she will be responsible for implementing new standards to build the infrastructure and measuring success.
  • At the April RNC meeting we will begin crafting political, finance and communications plans with each of the 50 state parties.
  • By the end of the summer we’ll hire over 20 state field directors who will work with state parties to build out the operations from the precinct captains up. Some of the states will be 2014 target states, some will be 2016 target states and some in growth communities with goal of opening doors in areas we don’t typically focus on.
  • This year we will also hire field staff specifically for 2014 targeted congressional districts.
  • This will include a massive minority engagement effort across many groups including Hispanics, Asian and Pacific Islanders and African Americans among others. The minority effort will work side by side with the re-vamped main line political programs to form one bold, new approach to engage voters.
  • At all times we will have a listening ear. Because we can’t expect anyone to listen to us if we’re not listening to them.
  • In the 2013 and 2014 campaigns, we’ll deploy our revamped voter contact and early vote strategies. We’ll launch programs in target areas to build support among key demographic groups and better mobilize our base using the new infrastructure.
  • And we have to find new voters so we will set target registration goals with state parties and hold them accountable.  The RNC will invest in a mobile voter registration program. And we will encourage our friends and allies in outside groups to significantly invest in voter registration as well.