RNC hosts 200 staffers for 'unprecedented' field training ahead of 2014

The Republican National Committee had 200 staffers in this week for field training with the goal of catching up with — and eventually surpassing — its Democratic counterparts' ground game efforts in 2014.

The RNC held two days of staff training out near Dulles Airport, led by RNC Chairman Reince Priebus and RNC chief of staff Mike Shields. Former House Majority Leader Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) also made an appearance.

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"The RNC is building something big all across this country, and it's unprecedented for the field staff to gather in these numbers this early," Priebus says in a statement to The Hill. "We're redefining how a field program works, and the great staff that gathered this week will help us tremendously in 2014 and beyond."

The organization has made it a priority to hire more state-level field staff than in previous years and ramp up its digital capabilities, following a 2012 election in which Democrats had a big advantage both on the ground and online.

The group says it now has state directors, field staff, data directors, minority engagement directors and field staff in every 2014 targeted state, and will spend the early part of 2014 focusing on recruiting volunteers and precinct captains, and mining data to find their targeted voters.

The training ran the gamut from digital and data training to social media and political event planning.

"At the RNC we've recruited some of the best talent from around the country to head up out voter engagement with all communities across all 50 states. This week was a first step in training and equipping our new team with the best practices and tools for us to win elections next year," says Shields in an email.

It remains to be seen which side can win the ground game heading forward, though things can change rapidly from cycle to cycle. Republicans had a big edge in the mid-2000s during George W. Bush's presidency, but President Obama's campaign team was light years ahead of its rivals in 2008 and 2012.