Indiana Political Campaigns Need to Emerge from ‘The Cave’
People probably are tired of me writing about Patrick Ruffini but for my money he’s one of the smartest conservative strategists out there. In the aftermath of the Virginia and New Jersey gubernatorial elections Ruffini wrote a piece for The Federalist discussing how political campaigns have improved, and more importantly how they haven’t, after the groundbreaking efforts of President Barack Obama’s reelection campaign.
Ruffini goes into greater detail, noting that while Governor Chris Christie won reelection in New Jersey easily, the Virginia race was actually within a close enough margin that adopting new approaches to data and strategy would have made the difference. Ruffini says:
The good news? The Republican party committees — the RNC, the NRSC, and NRCC — actually seem to understand this challenge, making serious hires with actual technology backgrounds to tackle this problem. Underappreciated in this process is the RNC’s investment in a permanent field infrastructure, something lacking in the past.
The bad news? The campaigns (whose performance actually determines who gets elected) still haven’t adjusted. They are still hiring the same people with the same cultural baggage, and making many of the same bad decisions. Either they believe the Obama field and digital example doesn’t apply to them, or they claim to be addressing the challenge with one-dimensional solutions that address a small part of the problem, or knockoffs that don’t are no match for the vastness and sophistication of the Democrats’ tech operation.
This change in structure by party organizations is a huge step forward, providing campaigns with the necessary infrastructure to take advantage of these changes in the political winds. Unfortunately, as Ruffini notes, if campaigns don’t figure out how to get the right people in place to capitalize on those changing winds – they’re going to lose tough races.
I asked Rachel Jacobs with the Indiana Republican Party how our state is trying to address these challenges. She said:
Nothing can take the place of quality candidates, dedicated supporters, and a message that resonates with Hoosier voters. Technology, no matter how advanced, can only be a tool to accomplish goals already outlined in a campaign plan. One such goal, sharing information about our Republican candidates, has never been easier or more efficient thanks to social media.
The Indiana Republican Party has analyzed many facets of the 2012 cycle and focused on data collection to chart a path for 2014. We look forward to using a combination of technology and traditional campaign efforts to maximize the impact of our grassroots plan.
The national party has recognized the need and is making progress to address the challenge and the state party is looking to support campaigns and extend these resources so they can help make a difference in tight races. We’re less than a year away from our next elections – will candidates in tight political campaigns, who should be making these decisions right now, learn the lesson from 2012 or face the possibility of losing another close election?