POLITICS: PennAve

GOP celebrates progress on first anniversary of 'autopsy' report

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Congress,Republican Party,2014 Elections,David M. Drucker,Campaigns,PennAve,RNC

The Republican National Committee on Monday trumpeted its modernized voter turnout operation as the weapon that would help the GOP win seats in this year's midterm elections, but it sidestepped questions about its effort to broaden the party's appeal among Hispanics.

RNC officials discussed these and related topics during a conference call to herald the first anniversary of the Growth and Opportunity Project, a scathing internal report compiled following the party's disappointing outing in the 2012 elections. Among the key findings of the “autopsy” report: The Republican Party's antiquated ground game and its poor relationship with nonwhite voters threatened to make the GOP a historical also-ran.

The party appears to have made the most tangible progress on voter turnout, where a multimillion-dollar overhaul has given the RNC capabilities to gather and analyze data in innovative ways it could only dream about in the 2012 election cycle. The Republican Party’s goal of increasing its support among Hispanics and in other ethnic communities appears to remain a considerable work in progress, although GOP officials are fond of touting unprecedented levels of “engagement.”

“I think it's very important -- the leaders of Congress have to take the lead,” said Zori Fonalledas when asked whether Republicans embracing comprehensive immigration reform at the federal level would aid the national party's outreach strategy.

Fonalledas, a Republican national committeewoman from Puerto Rico, co-authored the Growth and Opportunity Report with Ari Fleischer, a veteran of the George W. Bush administration; Henry Barbour, a national committeeman from Mississippi; Sally Bradshaw, a Republican strategist based in Florida; and Glenn McCall, a national committeeman from South Carolina.

Other officials on the conference call downplayed the role of Republicans in Congress and the issue of immigration reform when it came to improving the GOP’s performance with Hispanics. But all of them agreed on the RNC’s overhauled digital operation and ground game, saying the committee has made real progress that will boost GOP candidates on the November ballot.

Bradshaw said she saw real evidence of that in last week's special House election in Florida's St. Petersburg-area 13th district. In that race, David Jolly, a Republican, was outspent, but still managed to narrowly defeat Democrat Alex Sink, who had won the district in 2010 when she ran for governor. Bradshaw said the RNC digital and field operations deserved much of the credit.

“It was a real test case of the RNC’s new data and digital investment,” she said. “To win this was significant.”

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