The Republican National Committee (RNC) on Monday lauded its data projections and ground game for helping to deliver the election to President-elect Donald TrumpDonald TrumpTrump goes after Cassidy after saying he wouldn't support him for president in 2024 Jan. 6 panel lays out criminal contempt case against Bannon Hillicon Valley — Presented by Xerox — Agencies sound alarm over ransomware targeting agriculture groups MORE, even as the party’s internal projection showed the GOP nominee trailing in swing states days before Election Day.
A group of the party’s top officials and partners touted the efforts by both the party and the Trump campaign during a Capitol Hill victory lap press conference on Monday, less than a week after Trump’s stunning upset over Democratic nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonOvernight Defense & National Security — Presented by Raytheon Technologies — Nation mourns Colin Powell The Memo: Powell ended up on losing side of GOP fight Powell death leads to bipartisan outpouring of grief MORE.
Bill Skelly, a partner with the Republican data firm Causeway Solutions, told reporters that the party projected national turnout within 1 million votes, a valuable piece of information for candidates.
“If we could understand all the players on the field and turn that over to our campaigns, we felt we would give them a lot of info to really understand their best path to victory,” he said.
The party had faced questions throughout the general election calendar about whether its ground game could compete with Clinton’s juggernaut, which boasted more staff.
But officials had long stressed a belief in the massive investment made by RNC Chairman Reince Priebus into the party’s data and ground game programs and pointed to that investment as a factor in the 2016 victories.
The RNC’s estimates showed 13 battleground states within 3 percentage points on the Friday before Election Day, Skelly said. That was a signal to Republicans that the presidential race was still very much on the table, despite conventional wisdom expecting a Clinton win.
The late internal projections shared with reporters had Trump down 2.8 percentage points in Florida by the Friday before Election Day, but up in Ohio and Michigan by 2.4 and 0.2 percentage points, respectively. Skelly added that while the party came in just under its vote goal in Iowa, Clinton's supporters “didn’t show up.”
Trump won all four of those states, as well as other swing states.
But it was clear how close the RNC viewed the election, especially with one slip of the tongue.
When RNC chief of staff Katie Walsh was asked about the party’s next steps, she began to speak about the special election to fill Democratic senator and vice presidential nominee Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineSenate Democrats ditch Hyde amendment for first time in decades Fill the Eastern District of Virginia Defense & National Security — Military starts giving guidance on COVID-19 vaccine refusals MORE’s seat in Virginia.
Then, with a laugh, she realized that Clinton and Kaine’s loss meant that he’d stay put in the Senate at least until his reelection in 2018.
“We were going to prepare for that in a worst-case scenario,” she said of the Kaine special election.
The party leaders pointed to the efforts by both the RNC and the Trump campaign as essential to convincing persuadable voters to come home in those final days.
“We have gone from a party, in the last four years, that [now] truly understands who is voting, how they are voting,” RNC chief strategist Sean Spicer said.
“It’s not just knocking on a door, its knocking on the right door with the right message. Knowing who is going to vote, how they are going to vote and when they are going to vote is what’s really important.”
The aides also lauded two major pieces of Trump’s campaign strategy that had been questioned by some campaign veterans — his tie between voter enthusiasm and rally attendance and his last-minute travel.
Chris Carr, the RNC’s political director, celebrated the amount of volunteer signups and registrations that staffers made at Trump’s rallies, calling the enthusiasm unlike anything he’s ever seen.
And Walsh said that the data effort helped guide Trump’s travel over the final days in blue states that he ultimately won, like Michigan and Wisconsin.
Framing Trump’s victory as “resoundingly successful” and bucking calls questioning the Electoral College, which helped Trump win the race but not the popular vote, Spicer promised a robust agenda from the party’s new standard-bearer.
“He laid out a series of issues and change he wants and a vision. He has every intention of following up on what he talked about on the campaign trail,” he said.
“It’s not even a question. He’s going to deliver what he campaigned on.”