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RNC’s Rick Wiley Seeks to Level Playing Field

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo
With a revived focus on voter turnout at the Republican National Committee, Political Director Rick Wiley is confident about his party’s chances of defeating President Barack Obama.

Six months after the Republican National Committee set out to modernize a moribund voter-turnout operation, Political Director Rick Wiley expressed confidence that the committee’s new strategy would help the eventual GOP presidential nominee level the playing field with President Barack Obama.

In an interview with Roll Call, Wiley said the RNC used the special election in Nevada’s 2nd district to test a new ground-game program that is focused on early voting. That program continues to be refined — as do new strategies and technologies for identifying voters and getting them to the polls in the last three days of the campaign. The RNC also plans for the first time to heavily utilize social media and will recruit “virtual precinct captains.”

“We’ve made good progress,” Wiley said.

The RNC is racing to complete its get-out-the-vote makeover in time to hand off to the Republican presidential nominee a fully functioning political operation prepared to wage a fair fight with Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign.

Wiley, who was initially concerned about the RNC’s ability to adequately fund such a program, noted that the committee is close to paying off its vendor debt, and he predicted he would have the necessary resources despite being outspent.

Whether the fight for the GOP nomination concludes early next year or continues deep into the spring — similar to the 2008 Democratic primary — Wiley said the RNC’s goal is to deploy staff and political infrastructure into the field as soon as the party’s White House candidate assumes control of the committee. Wiley said he does not want a repeat of 2008, when there was a three-month lag between Sen. John McCain’s (Ariz.) victory and deployment.

“We just can’t afford to lose that time now, so we’re not going to. We’ll have a nominee, but that nominee will have a true, robust operation handed off to them from day one,” Wiley said.

The president’s team doesn’t appear worried.

Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt said the president’s supporters have spent the past three years organizing across the country in preparation for his 2012 re-election bid. While the GOP is busy sorting out whom it is going to put up against Obama — and as the various wings of the Republican Party fight for position in the nominating process — the Obama campaign is building a political infrastructure and forging connections with voters.

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