GOP can do it with RNC plan

Monday morning, the Republican National Committee made public the results of its Growth and Opportunity Project. The report presented the findings and recommendations of several small committees that explored the challenges facing our party in the wake of election setbacks of 2012. I was a member of the “mechanics” committee that studied myriad campaign tasks, from media buying and polling to old-school grassroots block-walking and new-age website cookie tracking. Everything went under the microscope. Consultants, operatives, technical experts were queried. Even a few Democrats and nonpartisan members of the new media establishment and some representatives of the corporate community were asked to weigh in. It was all confidential, and their names shall remain anonymous. The point is, no stone was left unturned. Our determined committee chairwoman, Sally Bradshaw, would hunt down every known critic of party campaigning strategies and tactics, asking them to come and speak with us or elaborate on their complaints with her privately if they couldn’t attend one of our sessions. There was no white wash to hide problems or failings. It was all out there for us to see, and the length and breadth of the recommendations attest to that.

The report speaks for itself, therefore, and needs no explanation or amplification, but I would like to share some observations gleaned from observing the discovery process and reflecting on our committee’s discussions.

One conceptual question we often asked ourselves was whether we had more of a “people problem” or a “technology problem.” There is always hope that it’s the latter, kindled by expectations that we can resolve all our shortcomings by buying some new piece of software or building a better website that taps into a bigger database that is accessible 24/7 through a mobile app on our newly purchased super-smartphone. Wouldn’t that be easier than fixing a lot of people and personnel issues? Yes, it would be, and we do need better technologies, but at the end of the day, our bigger challenges are in the human resources arena. We need more new recruits to lead us into emerging fields of campaign mechanics, and we also need our existing people to become more informed, so as to be more helpful in orienting the new recruits, and then to collaborate more effectively with all our people across the many disciplines of campaign activities. We also need our people to be more intuitively inquisitive, constantly asking how we might do things better, challenging old ideas and testing proposed solutions in order to find the best answers to recurrent questions. These are the hard things — recruiting, collaboration, testing —that friendly vendors just don’t sell. These are do-it-yourself tasks.

Democrats, it seems, have a natural edge in these endeavors. Most are socialists in their hearts and find it easy to think collectively and collaborate with others. There are far more academics and intellectuals among the Democrats, kindling the fires of curiosity that make testing an innate part of their campaigning process. And in some areas such as digital design, the pool of potential recruits will think of working for the Democrats as much cooler than signing up to work for the party of old white men who still use BlackBerrys.

To overcome these challenges, we’re going to need a plan, and the RNC has given us that. But we also need to be coached in the self-confidence that we can execute the plan, like a videotape loop in our heads of comedic actor Rob Schneider proclaiming over and over his running gag, “You can do it!” There are also going to be costs associated with doing it. Chairman Reince Priebus has promised budgets to fund implementation of the plan, so the party’s donors must buy in next. They should.

David Hill is a pollster that has worked for Republican candidates and causes since 1984.