In details shared exclusively with National Journal, leaders at the NRCC described a first-of-its-kind political operation deployed on behalf of a Republican congressional candidate. Led by Honeybadger, a continually updating system that integrates real-time data with existing voter files, they say they were able to track voters they had to target, discover what messages would motivate them to go to the polls, and project exactly how much ground Jolly had to recover when early absentee voting didn't swing his way.
Even in December, when the race was in its infancy, GOP officials using Honeybadger determined there were two key groups of voters it identified as essential to Jolly's victory: Republican seniors and independent and center-right women. The NRCC, along with assistance from the Republican National Committee and Florida state GOP, targeted those voters for persuasion -- a process strategists say was accomplished in part by combining their own information with what was available at the RNC's revamped Data Trust, a central hub of voter information for GOP campaigns.
In late February, NRCC strategists estimated that, among those who had returned absentee ballots, Honeybadger showed Jolly trailing Democrat Alex Sink by six points. Among those who hadn't yet voted, the system indicated that he led by 12 to 14 points. With early voting beginning March 1, and the election just 10 days later, the party was running out of time to make up the gap.
In this case, they turned to a message—delivered across a variety of digital platforms and email—that focused on urging them to vote now or watch Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi move one step closer to reclaiming the speaker's gavel.
"We had a lot of high-probability folks left, so if we were able to focus our message properly, we could create a surge, or amplify it," Rogers said. "Once we switched to that script across the board, that's when the surge started. That was late February."David Drucker writes at The Washington Examiner:
Working out of RNC headquarters in Washington and a recently opened annex in San Mateo, in California's Silicon Valley, a growing staff of 40 has been working since last summer to bring the GOP's antiquated ground game into the digital age. Their goal: catch and surpass the Democrats who -- bolstered by the groundbreaking innovations of Obama's two presidential campaigns -- had a 10-year head start. The RNC believes its effort has turned a corner.
“We committed ourselves to a permanent, coast-to-coast, year-round ground game,” RNC Chairman Reince Priebus said during a roundtable with reporters. “We've invested in new predictive analytics that are revolutionizing how our campaigns are targeting voters.”
Color the Democrats skeptical.
After all, the Republicans are trying to copy an operation that the Democrats have been building, perfecting and training on for 10 years, ever since the party was outflanked by the GOP in the 2004 presidential election. Even if the RNC develops advanced digital tools in time for this year’s campaign, the committee has to teach a new crop of volunteers to use them, not to mention convince longtime strategists to embrace them.