ORLANDO, Florida—As the Republican Party of Florida (RPOF) gathers in Orlando for their quarterly meeting, RPOF Chairman Blaise Ingoglia joined Breitbart News for an exclusive interview about the party’s plans for 2016 and the important role he expects Florida to play in the elections.
Ingoglia told Breitbart News that RPOF has made substantial structural and strategic changes as 2016 approaches. “The first thing that we realized was that in order to win 2016, we had to have a better ground game,” he said. “The GOP dominates in midterm elections and we sort of have our challenges in presidential elections, [so we are] refocusing our attention to grassroots, boots on the ground, being involved in the community, and giving the grassroots leaders of the county parties the tools they need to go back into their communities to get their local people elected but also turn out the vote for our statewide candidates.”
Ingoglia described how the party had reorganized to help their ground game efforts. Previously, the party representatives had met at the quarterly meeting by Congressional districts, and each county has a Republican Executive Committee that meets monthly. Now, starting with this quarterly meeting, additional caucuses would be also organized by region: the Panhandle Caucus (Tallahassee, Pensacola), Northeast Florida (Jacksonville, St. Augustine), I-4 Corridor (Tampa, Orlando, Daytona), Southwest Florida (Naples, Fort Myers), and Southeast Florida (Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, St. Lucie).
These new regional caucuses would allow the grassroots leaders to “network with each other and help deliver those regions which are pivotal to delivering [Florida’s] 29 electoral votes,” he said.
RPOF has also expanded their activist training, expanding the number of seminars offered at the quarterly meeting. Reviewing the agenda showed seminars with topics like campaign finance, media training, digital communication, and engagement strategies for women, minorities, veterans, and faith-based groups.
According to Ingoglia, RPOF has also made substantial investments in technology, which he described as “one of the things that we realized we had to step up our game.”
“We are investing heavily in new technology and digital infrastructure,” he said, although he declined to give many specifics. The focus will be on both voter communication and get-out-the-vote efforts, but also data acquisition, as the party seeks to build detailed voter files like those that were successfully used by the Obama campaign. “It’s going to be data, data, data, in conjunction with the ground game [and] digital engagement, and we believe that’s going to be the recipe for success,” said Ingoglia.
“I will tell you, this state is going red in 2016,” he confidently predicted.
Ingoglia also said that this kind of investment in ground game and digital strategy was the key to Gov. Rick Scott (R-FL) being able to win re-election last year against former Governor—and former Republican—Charlie Crist. “He did a lot of things that needed to be done in the midterm election. He turned out the vote. He invested very heavily and he continued investing heavily in the ground game even a week or so before the election. He just never took his foot off the gas pedal.”
“And that’s what we’re doing,” continued Ingoglia. “We’re just starting earlier now. Our foot is on the gas pedal now and we’re not letting up until a Republican is back in the White House.”
Florida will undoubtedly play a major role in the presidential election—not just because of the state’s 29 electoral votes, but because a significant number of the candidates calling the Sunshine State home. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) has already thrown his hat in the ring, and former Gov. Jeb Bush (R-FL) is expected to do so soon. Former Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-AR) and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, who launched their campaigns earlier this month, are now both Florida residents.
“We’re blessed,” said Ingoglia, “we have a deep bench here in Florida and we have a lot of people who have taken that step and they are all leaders in their own right.” He pledged that the party would stay neutral during the primary and focus their efforts on building the infrastructure, ground game, and financial support to be ready for whoever became the nominee.
Florida complied with the Republican National Committee rules regarding the scheduling of their primary date, setting it for March 15, 2016, but the state would “absolutely” still have a major impact on selecting the Republican nominee, said Ingoglia. “Everyone who goes prior [to Florida], their delegates are given out proportionally. We are the first, and largest, and most diverse swing state that is winner-take-all.”
Moreover, he continued:
It’s still Florida. It still counts. Florida is big, it has multiple media markets. It’s sort of a test: the candidate that can win the state of Florida with the multiple media markets, with the diversity of this state, it’s sort of a microcosm of the United States, so if you have the organizational structure to get your message out, and turn out the vote, and win in the state of Florida, what that’s telling the rest of the nation is that the person who wins Florida has the organization to take on Hillary [Clinton] in 2016.
Like the presidential race, Ingoglia promised that RPOF would stay neutral in the primary for Rubio’s Senate seat, which he is vacating because Florida law will not allow him to remain on the ballot for both races. The infrastructure work that the party was doing for the presidential race would also greatly benefit whoever became the nominee for Senate, since that was another statewide race. “They’re going to benefit from all the work that we’re doing, eighteen months out… we’re going to be there to support whoever the nominee is.”
Regarding the increasingly nasty infighting among Florida Democrats for who their party would put forward in the Senate race, Ingoglia criticized the Democrats for turning to a “coronation” instead of the competitive primaries the Republicans were having, both in the Presidential and Senate races.
As Breitbart News reported, Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-FL) has officially launched his campaign and received the backing of a number of Democratic party organizations and elected officials, while Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL), who is considering running, has support from the more progressive wing of the party. A poll last month showed that the race was wide open, with 23 percent of Florida Democrats preferring Murphy, 14 percent Grayson, and the vast majority—63 percent—still undecided.
Grayson, known for being brashly outspoken in general, has been even louder in voicing his frustration with what he views as efforts to bully him out of the race. A few days ago, he reportedly launched profanity-laced tirades at Adam C. Smith of the Tampa Bay Times and Scott Powers of the Orlando Sentinel. According to Marc Caputo, Politico‘s Florida reporter, Grayson told Smith the recent news coverage was “a whole ‘nother level of bullsh**” and asked him if he was “some kind of sh**ing robot” who went around “sh**ing on people.” Caputo also wrote that Powers “confirmed he was unable to get anything printable from Grayson.”
“It’s sort of par for the course for the Democrats at this point,” said Ingoglia. “They’ve already anointed one presidential nominee in Hillary Clinton and now they’re anointing another one in Patrick Murphy.”
“Republicans, we believe competition makes everything better,” he continued. “By the time our Republican field is set [for the presidential race], it’s probably going to be north of fifteen candidates. We have true competition and when you have competition, the cream rises to the top.”
“On the Democrats’ side, you don’t have that, so you have a few making a decision for the many. Where’s the competition on their side? There’s no competition. They don’t have a deep bench. I will say this also: For them to anoint Patrick Murphy, who just got elected, means they don’t have a bench. They go to the flavor of the day. And right now, that’s Patrick Murphy.”
Wrapping up the interview, Ingoglia quipped that “we’re working hard… if there are any big donors out there, and don’t know who to give to,” he invited them to invest in RPOF “because we’re putting the infrastructure in place” to win in 2016.
Follow Sarah Rumpf on Twitter @rumpfshaker.