The Republican National Committee has decided against sending Congressional staffers out on the campaign trail for traditional get-out-the-vote efforts, focusing its resources instead on mailings and other last-minute pre-election efforts, the committee confirmed Tuesday.
The RNC traditionally runs the GOTV operation for Capitol Hill, which includes recruiting and registering staff that want to help the GOP at the state level.
But this year the committee canceled the deployment program to cut costs ahead of the midterm elections.
Doug Heye, a spokesman for the RNC, said the money would instead be used to fund other parts of its “72-hour program,” such as paid mail.
“What the change means is that we are channeling our resources so that we will be as effective as possible,” Heye said. “With early and absentee voting becoming more prevalent — both in voters who use it and states that allow it — it was decided last year that a last-minute deployment was not cost-effective.”
Heye said the RNC made the decision after a review of deployments during the 2009 elections in New Jersey and Virginia. After the review, the committee determined that the program was not cost-effective.
“We spent $1 million in Virginia on deployment,” Heye said, noting that while voter contact grew in both states, it grew at a slower pace in Virginia.
Heye said the RNC will continue to run the 72-hour program, which includes voter registration call centers and 352 state-level Victory centers where volunteers can join the GOTV effort.
Heye noted that the RNC has made 17 million contacts — phone calls or door knocks made by volunteers — with voters this year.
The cancellation of the deployment program doesn’t mean staffers have to stay home.
Several Members plan to run their own get-out-the-vote efforts and pick up the tab through their leadership political action committees.
For example, Illinois Republican Reps. Peter Roskam, Aaron Schock and John Shimkus will send staffers to their home state to aid campaigns in the final days before the elections, with the hope of helping push Republican candidates over the finish line, a GOP staffer said.
This source said the Illinois program was planned months ago and was modeled on an Ohio GOTV effort organized by Minority Leader John Boehner (R).
The cancellation of the deployment program comes as RNC Chairman Michael Steele has received criticism for low fundraising numbers and a cross-country bus tour that many campaign operatives have deemed unnecessary and ineffective.
“We have the best electoral climate since ’94, and the RNC has no money for get out the vote? I hope Chairman Steele at least saved a few bucks to redecorate his office again,” one House GOP aide quipped.
Brad Woodhouse, a spokesman for the Democratic National Committee, said the Democrats would likely send Washington, D.C., aides out into the field to assist in the midterm elections effort.
“I’m sure, as is normal, we’ll make some deployments to campaigns from here as well — because we’ve had our best fundraising for a midterm ever and because we’ve outraised the RNC by millions this year,” Woodhouse said in an e-mail. “We don’t have to make the same choices they are.”
Several Republican state party officials said the additional support is always helpful but not necessarily vital given their strong in-state volunteer turnout this year.
“There’s never been a commitment from the RNC for a certain number of people to be deployed to the states, and it’s not something we planned for in our Victory program,” John McClelland, a spokesman for the Ohio Republican Party, wrote in an e-mail. “If people were deployed to Ohio, we might have a hard time finding something for them to do that isn’t already assigned to a volunteer.”
Garren Shipley, communications director for the Virginia Republican Party, said in an e-mail that his group hadn’t requested any help from the deployment program either.
“We’ve got fantastic campaigns this year with huge grassroots support and hadn’t thought all that much about asking for outside help,” Shipley said. “We’ve got several districts with incumbents who are in excellent shape, and if we need to draw out-of-district support, that’s the first place we’d call. But so far we haven’t even had to do that.”
“We’re in good shape with or without deployment,” he added.