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How Republicans are going digital
An electoral drubbing has the GOP scrambling to implement a more tech savvy operation
RNC Chairman Reince Priebus speaks to Mitt Romney and Rob Portman while each man uses his respective gadget.
RNC Chairman Reince Priebus speaks to Mitt Romney and Rob Portman while each man uses his respective gadget. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
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resh off an embarrassing November defeat that exposed how badly Republicans lagged Democrats in effectively utilizing technology to identify, communicate with, and turn out voters, the Republican National Committee is now scrambling to revamp its digital strategy.

Following November's shellacking, the GOP faced criticism from campaign watchers and even its own members, with tech experts saying the party needed to pour millions of dollars into new digital investments to remain competitive in the future. Heeding those calls, the RNC has begun to take action, announcing plans to greatly bolster its digital game with new hires and fresh initiatives.

According to Yahoo News, the RNC is working to build a platform that would allow it to easily share troves of voter data with campaigns and third-party groups that work alongside the GOP. The party already has a stockpile of raw data, but it will now turn that intel over to savvy developers who will in turn devise new apps and programs to harness the information.

In an internal report obtained by Yahoo, the RNC acknowledged that the Obama team had a "far superior" system for parsing data and putting it to good use. To blunt that edge, the party's goal is to ultimately wind up with, as the memo described it, the GOP's own version of the Apple store, where members could freely draw on a whole marketplace of digital tools.

The RNC's new effort is part of its Growth and Opportunity Project. Launched in December, the project aims to "develop an action plan…to improve future Republican campaigns."

As part of that effort, the RNC announced Tuesday that it was searching for a technology officer to oversee the party's digital reboot. RNC Chairman Reince Priebus visited Silicon Valley earlier this year, and hopes to have a new hire in place by May.

The Obama campaign famously used a sizable digital team to fuel its big 2012 victory. Number crunching was a central aspect of the campaign, as staffers targeted voters with tailor-made messages and get-out-the-vote pitches. They even used data tools to determine which celebrities would deliver the biggest return when featured in fundraising events. The campaign relied on these tools so heavily — and guarded their specifics so closely — that campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt referred to them as "our nuclear codes."

By contrast, the Romney campaign's signature get-out-the-vote app, nicknamed Orca, crashed on election day, severing communication between thousands of staffers and prompting merciless whale puns in the press.

Jon Terbush is a staff writer for TheWeek.com covering politics, sports, and other things he finds interesting. He has previously written for Talking Points Memo, Raw Story, and Business Insider.

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