Karl Rove, arguably one of the biggest losers of the 2012 election, inexplicably won the RNC contract to revamp its voter contact database. Rove, who was a specialist in direct mail, has no obvious expertise in technology or social media. Yet, the well-connected operative was able to win a contract on which the GOP has pinned its future electoral success. It is going about as well as expected.
Dick Boyce, former CEO of clothing company J Crew, enlisted Rove’s help to win the GOP contract for his fledgling start-up, Liberty Works. The RNC hired the new company, with no experience in the field, to build an open-source data platform that could be shared by other candidates and campaigns. Politico reported Monday that the effort is off to a shaky start.
Top engineers in Silicon Valley who have been looking for ways to help Republican campaigns question Boyce’s vision and say the company’s outreach is underwhelming — as are its salary offers.
“At a minimum, they should buy a round or two of drinks before they ask the tech community to get into bed,” said Garrett Johnson, the chief executive of SendHub, an Internet communications firm in Menlo Park.
According to Politico, Liberty Works has already decided to outsource its most critical function, building the voter data platform. The need to outsource that function raises questions about what capabilities Liberty Works brought to the table to win the contract. If I hire someone to paint my house and they turn around and hire another firm to do the work, I’m going to question my hiring decision.
The whole episode goes a long way to explain why the GOP can’t have nice things. After its stunning loss in 2012, the RNC embarked on a well-deserved “autopsy” to identify what went wrong. Many of the necessary changes identified were well thought out and important. Executing the changes through the same failed actors who brought failure, however, is not a recipe for success.
Sometimes a losing team needs new tactics to win. More often, however, they need a new roster of players. The GOP is well past that point.