Remember the Republican National Committee’s “autopsy report” published in early 2013, called “The Growth and Opportunity Project,” designed to provide “lessons learned” from the 2012 presidential election cycle?
It actually had some good ideas, including these (bolding added):
- We believe the RNC would be wiser to focus on the ground game, rather than TV ads, since there seems to be a never-ending supply of friends and allies eager to run TV ads. If the RNC believes it needs to lead on message, then it should do so through public communications.
. . .
- Bottom-Up, not Top-Down
With regard to organization, the RNC, campaigns and our friends and allies have become too Washington-centric and top-down oriented. The best campaigns and organizations hire senior people and empower them at the state and local level. We need to grow the Republican Party from the ground up, not from the top down. This grassroots plan must be hinged with our political and social media plan. The RNC must hire seasoned Regional Political Directors and field finance directors to help state parties and campaigns win from the precinct level up. We need a lot more of the Evelyn
McPhail grassroots approach to politics. As the committee was told by a participant during a listening session in North Carolina, “Make the precinct captain the most important person in a campaign.”While the 72-hour program was incredibly effective during the Bush 43 years, we need to recruit significant local volunteers, rather than shipping in outsiders to do fieldwork. This should be a neighbor-to-neighbor effort, and non-party organizations with local ties and knowledge can play a key role.
. . .
The conservative cause is fortunate to have many strong friends and allies promoting our beliefs and our candidates. One issue of concern is that too often it seems these outside groups (and our 2012 presidential campaign) tend to hire one vendor to handle all of their paid media, mail, phones, etc. We are concerned that leads to a lack of innovation and too many decisions being made by a small, centralized team. Don’t forget that our base of voters is naturally skeptical of centralized leadership attempting to control too many things. Our friends and allies should hire multiple vendors to foster competition and more ideas and to minimize the risk of poor performance. A number of these groups are empowering local conservative leaders to help rally voters behind the best conservative candidates. This is a much more effective approach than anyone in Washington trying to dictate our primaries.
1. Our friends and allies should parallel the RNC’s effort to hire field organizers
at the local level who are a part of the community of voters.
2. Our friends and allies should hire multiple vendors to avoid overly centralized
leadership and to encourage competition and innovative political strategies.
3. Our friends and allies should empower local conservative leaders to help rally
voters behind the best conservative candidates.
- Training and Ground Game
In our discussions with our friends, allies, and state parties, it’s clear that voter registration efforts are struggling. The answer is not to punt. While county and state parties must lead on party-building activities such as voter registration, we urge a bottom-up approach to voter registration, and our friends and allies need to be willing to invest smartly. Cluster voting is a good tool for 501(c) (4) groups where we have a high percentage of conservative voters in a certain area.
There can be testing of various approaches, but oftentimes the best answers are the old ways of setting up voter registration tables at targeted grocery stores in red neighborhoods. Again, make your precinct captains your most important people and empower them to get real people to register people one person at a time. It’s not sexy, but it works. It also works to target voter registration to issue areas such as Second Amendment rights, restrictions on prayer, etc. This is an area where key friends and allies can play a significant role in voter registration and complement the Party’s efforts.
More and better training is a consistent theme in this report. It is critical that we train and empower volunteers who share our core principles. This is needed at the local level, and our friends and allies should aggressively develop training opportunities throughout the country; state parties should do the same. Certainly, the RNC and interested friends and allies should have this on their list of nuts-and-bolts organizing that needs tending and planning. It sounds simple, but if campaigns, state parties, and our friends and allies don’t know how to reach potential voters and volunteers, we have a problem. Well, we have a problem. Too often, our lists do not have cell phone numbers, email addresses or social media handles. We cannot function if we cannot reach people. Friends and allies should invest in getting cell phone numbers added to the voter file. There is the old-fashioned approach of doing it by asking our precinct captains to help get cell phone numbers for voters in their neighborhoods. Most schools, churches, civic organizations, etc., have lists of names with email and cell phone numbers. Give local volunteers a job to do and they will do it. This is not glamorous work, but it’s necessary. Again, state parties must lead in this area, but our friends and allied groups can augment their efforts. Party organizations and campaigns can buy these lists inexpensively and engage in list exchange agreements with groups that may have uses for voter file information.
Training is not just for volunteers. It is a challenge to identify experienced campaign staff. The NRSC told us it plans to beef up its campaign schools. The RNC and NRCC should coordinate with the NRSC in this effort. In addition, the RNC needs to lead an effort to train our media consultants on how to use social media. We suggest that the RNC use social media industry leaders to conduct this training as opposed to other political consultants. Certainly, our friends and allies could play a significant role in assisting with this training effort.
In our discussions with the RGA, we learned that it has been able to conduct party-building efforts in key states like Pennsylvania during a governor’s race that happens to coincide with a U.S. Senate race. We would urge the RNC, NRSC, RGA, and RSLC to discuss how to expand this effort in a legal manner. This is an important opportunity to maximize our dollars.
1. Our friends and allies should significantly invest in voter registration and grassroots efforts.
2. Our friends and allies should develop numerous training opportunities for volunteers and campaign staff including in social media.
3. Our friends and allies should augment the effort of state parties to include cell phones
and email addresses in the voter file.
How much progress has been made since the Growth and Opportunity Report was published? Not much. Indeed, not much progress has been made since the election of President Obama. That is, not much progress has been made in the fundamental, most important metric regarding the grassroots strength of the Republican Party: still, about half of the Party’s approximately 400,000 precinct-level precinct committeeman “voting member” slots of our Party are unfilled. Search the RNC’s web site and see if you can find a single reference or explanation about the need for Republican voters to become actual voting members of the Republican Party apparatus. I have. I have found nothing.
Our Party has continued to go into each election cycle at half-strength and, worse, without the participation of conservative Republicans. Only 200,000 conservatives are needed to transform our Party from a half-strength, ideologically-split, weak ground game party to a full-strength, solidly conservative get-out-the-vote powerhouse.
Are there 200,000 or so conservative Republicans who are chomping at the bit to “do something” to help their country politically? Of course. Indeed, there are tens of millions of them. But they are splintered in all sorts of conservative special interest groups focused on their pet issues. What we need to do is corral all of them into our Party’s precinct committeeman ranks, explaining to them why and how the office of precinct committeeman truly is “the most powerful office in the world.”
Every conservative precinct committeeman needs to constantly be attempting to woo conservatives they know into the ranks of our Party at the precinct level and local committee level. Why? Because precinct committeemen are the fundamental building block of our Party and, in some states, such as in Arizona, ONLY precinct committeemen elect delegates to the state convention who, in turn, elect the national committeeman and national committeewoman. (In Arizona, the precinct committeemen also elect the state committeemen (one in three elected precinct committeemen may serve as state committeemen) who, in turn, elect the state chairman).
Currently in Arizona, as is the case in most – if not all – states, half of the precinct committeeman slots are vacant. If all of the vacant precinct committeeman slots were filled with conservative Republicans, undoubtedly Arizona’s three RNC members would be conservatives and, as well, the state committee, county committees, and local district committees, would have conservatives in the elected officer positions.
Resources to help you make the pitch:
*This article is a working draft of a chapter in a soon-to-be published guide for Republican Party delegates, an effort being spearheaded by North Dakota Republican National Committeeman Curly Haugland, intended to make all delegates aware of the duties and responsibilities they assume as they fulfill their important role in the governance of the Republican Party. The working title of the guide is “Owner’s Manual for 2016 Republican National Convention Delegates.”
Daniel J. Schultz graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1978 and served as an Army Human Intelligence Officer. He now practices law. He has been a Republican Party precinct committeeman since 2007 and was a co-winner of the Conservative HQ Liberty Prize based on his e-book Taking Back Your Government: The Neighborhood Precinct Committeeman Strategy. State-specific and other information relating to The Neighborhood Precinct Committeeman Strategy can be found at http://precinctproject.us and http://theprecinctproject.wordpress.com. Mr. Schultz can be reached at email@example.com.