Officials say the multimillion-dollar program would give Republican candidates the ability to amass more detailed information than ever about individual voters. The data would help candidates narrowly tailor appeals for votes and money. The system would, in many ways, try to mimic many of the digital innovations that helped President Obama’s reelection campaign last year.
The move follows a scathing spring review by the Republican National Committee, which assailed the party and the campaign of its 2012 presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, for falling short in digital marketing and voter outreach. The report called for more “intellectual curiosity” and for party members to be “more sophisticated” with data and to improve collaboration. In short, it said, “Republicans do not do this very well.”
Although they’re behind, Republican officials say their new effort could at some point put them ahead of Democrats, who are assessing how to make the Obama campaign system available to other party candidates. The RNC program will be housed largely inside the party structure, giving GOP candidates up and down the ballot easy access to data, party officials said.
“We’re thinking big,” said Andrew Barkett, 32, a former Facebook engineer who joined the RNC in June to oversee the new system. Barkett describes what he’s building as a “tool belt” for GOP candidates that will prove more effective than the “locked treasure chest” created by the Obama campaign.
Some in the party, although welcoming the effort, caution that leaders shouldn’t expect it to solve more fundamental problems, such as how Republicans can broaden their appeal before the next presidential campaign.
The RNC plan “addresses the data problem, but you still have a content problem — one that will affect all the candidates in 2016,” said Zac Moffatt, co-founder of the pro-GOP data firm Targeted Victory and Romney’s 2012 digital director. “You can find all the voters, but you still need to determine what you are going to say to them.”