POLITICS: PennAve

RNC rolling out permanent grassroots operation at spring meeting

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Politics,Betsy Woodruff,Republican Party,Campaigns,PennAve,Technology,Smartphones,Data Mining,Demographics,RNC

In Memphis this week, the Republican National Committee will re-launch its victory program.

Mike Shields, the RNC's chief of staff, told a group of reporters that the committee is adding permanent field staff around the country -- it's currently growing its presence in Colorado, New Hampshire, and Virginia -- as part of a new permanent grassroots operation called Victory 365. Per Shields, the program aims to recruit local volunteers and precinct captains to help grow the RNC's data file.

"What that is, is us beating the Democrats at their own game."

“Let’s be honest: This is community organizing,” said Shields.

Smartphones will play a significant role, he added. The RNC commissioned the development of two canvassing apps, called Advantage Mobile and Geo Connect, that volunteers can use when they go door to door. Volunteers download the app and type in a code they get from the campaign. The app then gives them a map with doors to knock on and tells them what survey questions to ask the people who answer. Volunteers log participants' answers, and that information immediately goes to the campaign.

Shields said the new system helped David Jolly win the race for Florida's 13th Congressional district. He said that heading into early voting, Jolly was dragging with high-propensity Republican men.

“They were voting in high numbers,” Shields said, “but for him to win, he needed to have them be really, really high.”

So during early voting, volunteers went to the homes of likely voters who hadn’t voted yet, including many of those high-propensity Republican men. The RNC’s ground game was helpful on that front; national Republicans had staff in the district before Rep. Bill Young’s death resulted in an open seat.

And after the Republican congressman passed away, the RNC sent more staff to the district. Those staffers recruited volunteers and trained them on how to use the app. Then the National Republican Congressional Committee, a sister committee of the RNC, used the data those volunteers gathered to inform decisions about phone calls, direct mail, and more door-knocking.

“Really, what that is, is us beating the Democrats at their own game,” Shields said. “We’ve taken some giant strides toward being able to do that.”

The apps mean that volunteers are “like a big sentient being” that can use data to get more data, he added.

Chuck DeFeo, the RNC’s chief digital officer, added that while national Republicans have long had a thick data file, their ability to disburse it to candidates hasn’t been up to par.

“They knew the data was here,” DeFeo said. “We just needed to do a better job of providing access for them.”

So the RNC is introducing OneData, a data file that has 190 million active voters with information on their demographics, voting history, age, gender, and other traits.

The data file will be available to Republican campaigns for free. State parties will control candidates’ access and decide whether it can be used in primaries.

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