If you've read Mike's America over the years you'll know that I've warned time and again about the importance of improving GOP voter turnout methods (1,2,3). Two years before the 2012 presidential election I warned that "Democrats well funded permanent political infrastructure gives them huge advantage over GOP/Tea Party volunteers and ad hoc organization." I recommended that the GOP "fund an army of activists," and "put boots on the ground and build a permanent grass roots infrastructure." That warning wasn't heeded and Obama won in 2012 by micro targeting votes in a handful of key states he needed to win. I believe if the national GOP and Romney campaign had a better grass roots organization, instead of wasting money on television ads, we would have won the 2012 campaign.
I sounded the warning again on Monday after analyzing the Florida special congressional election. There were hopeful signs in that result and I'm glad to see two new reports, one in Politico and the other in the New York Times which indicates that the lesson may be applied to other key races this fall.
In Politico a labor union leader in North Carolina was whining about how unfair the Citizens United case was. If only Democrats could go back to a time where unlimited spending by Big Labor unions was unanswered by the right. But now, with new conservative and Republican political action committees the GOP is starting to mount a more permanent political organization. No more folding up the tent and going home after election day.
One big battlefield will be in North Carolina where Senator Kay Hagan(D)and ObamaCare supporter is up for re-election. From Politico:
Americans for Prosperity and other conservative groups like American Majority aren’t relying solely on ads to try to oust Hagan after her first term. They’re moving into a model more akin to liberals, with a more permanent operation set up in the key state.The New York Times report echoes Politico:
“We know we did this right in 2012; there just wasn’t enough of it,” said American Majority’s Ned Ryun of the conservative ground game for the 2012 election. “We want to build out a fairly robust network of trained volunteers and obviously increase our data in preparation for 2016.”
“What we’re trying to do now is more permanent. It’s more strategic in nature,” Dudley said. The group is hiring an additional seven field coordinators throughout the state and reorganizing its Raleigh, N.C., office to have staff dedicated to policy, grass roots and communications.
Americans for Prosperity is also stepping up its ground game. The organization now has more than 200 full-time paid staff members in field offices in at least 32 states. The idea is to embed staff members in a community, giving conservative advocacy a permanent local voice through field workers who live in the neighborhood year-round and appreciate the nuances of the local issues. They can also serve as a ready-to-go field organization in future election years and on future issues — not dissimilar from the grass-roots, community-based approach Mr. Obama used successfully in 2008 and 2012.Despite GOP improvements Democrats retain a key advantage in political infrastructure, tactics and experience. Dems are not resting on their 2006, 2008 and 2012 laurels. While the GOP is still playing catch up, the Dems are finding new ways to bank more votes to counter any wave this fall.
“Too often our side will gear up for an individual issue battle or in some cases an election, but we don’t have a permanent infrastructure,” Mr. Phillips said. “What we took from studying it was that we have to have a bigger, more permanent infrastructure on the ground in these states, and this takes time.”
Does it seem the GOP is learning it's lesson? I hope so. I'm getting tired of repeating the warning!