President Barack Obama’s unprecedented success at targeting and turning out voters in 2008 has motivated the Republican National Committee to overhaul key aspects of its get-out-the-vote program to put the eventual GOP White House nominee on more competitive footing for 2012.
In an extensive interview with Roll Call, RNC Political Director Rick Wiley revealed the committee’s strategy for combating what is expected to be an Obama re-election campaign that is at least as technologically advanced and operationally effective as it was three years ago. Wiley said his No. 1 priority is improving how the RNC uses technology to connect with prospective voters and developing a better system for volunteer door-to-door contacts, while also updating the committee’s voter rolls.
“We’re taking a top-to-bottom look at the turnout program and all the pieces that are in the turnout program and figuring what works, what doesn’t work and what’s outdated,” said Wiley, who served as an RNC regional political director during the 2010 cycle. “Right now, we’re getting outhustled on the doors, there’s no doubt about it.”
As the RNC seeks to hand off a well-oiled ground-game machine to whomever wins the presidential nomination, the committee plans to focus its resources on 13 states in particular, although the field could ultimately expand to 20 to 25 states, depending on how the campaign unfolds. The top nine are states won by President George W. Bush in 2004 and Obama in 2008: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Indiana, North Carolina, New Mexico, Nevada, Ohio and Virginia.
“The next four,” as they are referred to internally, were chosen based on GOP performance in the 2010 midterms: Michigan, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
Obama’s target list of swing and Republican-leaning states is not expected to change from the 2008 campaign.
As an example of an outdated system, Wiley cited the RNC’s once-vaunted “72-hour program” to turn out voters during the last three days of a campaign. He said the committee must adjust in an age when millions participate in early and absentee voting beginning as soon as six weeks before Election Day. The RNC’s Voter Vault, once the gold standard of voter-contact databases, is also due for modernization, Wiley said.
In the Obama states that the RNC is targeting, local GOP officials sound optimistic that the national party will provide the leadership, the tools and the money to effectively compete against a Democratic operation that could raise $1 billion.
“Candidly, it’s a significant task,” newly installed Colorado GOP Chairman Ryan Call said recently in a telephone interview. “Having said that, I’m optimistic.”
Obama won Colorado with 54 percent of the vote in 2008; President George W. Bush won the state with 52 percent four years earlier.