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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.

LaBolt, echoing what the Obama campaign has said repeatedly, said the president intends to widen the playing field beyond the battleground states and Republican bastions he won in 2008. LaBolt noted that 12,000 individuals signed up to be volunteer summer organizers — more than in the first campaign. On one particular day, Obama supporters hosted 1,100 house meetings across the country, LaBolt said.

“The most compelling advocates for the president are volunteers in communities across the country reaching out to their friends and neighbors each day,” LaBolt added. 

Wiley is even more bullish on the Republicans’ prospects of ousting Obama next year than he was in April because of the charged political atmosphere and the president’s weak job approval ratings in swing states.

Wiley said he has his eye on the nine states Obama won in 2008 that were captured by President George W. Bush in 2004 — Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Indiana, North Carolina, New Mexico, Nevada, Ohio and Virginia, in addition to Michigan, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Wiley rejected the notion that Obama could widen the playing field, let alone hold ground from 2008, conceding only that Colorado remains problematic for Republicans. “The wave sort of didn’t make it out there” in 2010, Wiley said.

Still, he argued that new leadership at the Colorado GOP could help turn things around in 2012, and he expects a more effective turnout operation in several states because of new and more focused leadership within the state party ranks.

But it’s the RNC’s new ground game, much of it derived from internal focus groups made up of GOP strategists from both inside and outside the committee, that has Wiley excited.

He credited the new early voting program with helping Rep. Mark Amodei (R) jump out to a 20-point lead among early and absentee voters en route to a crushing Sept. 13 victory in Nevada’s 2nd district special election.

Wiley said the RNC is developing ways for people to vote absentee directly from their smartphones or other personal handheld devices. He said nine of the 15 2012 battleground states are likely to be won or lost in early voting.

The RNC is using technology to upgrade its traditional boots-on-the-ground voter-turnout operation and will test it in some upcoming Northern Virginia state Senate races. The committee is also exploring how to harness the Internet to expand its voter rolls and encourage sympathetic voters to cast their ballots. Like the new early voting program, this is another case where the RNC political director is building a system where none existed before.

Wiley is hoping to mimic what has been successful for Obama and the Democrats by using the Internet and social media to access individual activists and related groups. Modeled after the team leader program from the 2004 Bush campaign that targeted geographic regions with local volunteers, this new strategy will employ virtual precinct captains to corral voters in social networking communities, such as Facebook and Twitter.

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