Within a month after last year's presidential election, the Republican National Committee launched a massive project to diagnose the problems that contributed to the party's defeat. Now, the final draft of the "Growth & Opportunity Project" is here and, as promised, it's a behemoth.
The RNC on Monday released the findings of the three-month project led by a group of veteran Republican strategists that propose ways the party can improve its outreach to minorities, the primary election process, messaging, fundraising and its relationship with third-party groups.
The dense, 100-page report includes 219 recommendations that are a result of input from about 36,000 online surveys, thousands of conference calls and personal meetings with the project's co-chairs, more than 50 focus groups, 3,000 listening sessions in nine states and the District of Columbia, and surveys targeting the views of women, Hispanics, pollsters, consultants, campaign volunteers and field staff.
Below are 10 lessons the Republican Party learned from its exhaustive search—and what it plans to do about it.
1. Sustain outreach to minority communities, even in years without elections
From the report:
We need to do a better job connecting people to our policies. Our ideas can sound distant and removed from people’s lives. Instead of connecting with voters’ concerns, we too often sound like bookkeepers. ... If we believe our policies are the best ones to improve the lives of the American people, all the American people, our candidates and office holders need to do a better job talking in normal, people-oriented terms, and we need to go to communities where Republicans do not normally go to listen and make our case. We need to campaign among Hispanic, black, Asian, and gay Americans and demonstrate that we care about them, too.
The RNC will devote $10 million to hire hundreds of new employees in communities across the country who will have a permanent presence. The project will focus on neighborhoods with heavy black, Hispanic and Asian populations to sustain relationships with those communities in years with and without elections and establish new, senior-level advisory councils for those voters.
The party is also preparing an "aggressive marketing campaign" at historically black colleges and universities.
2. Recruit more minority Republican candidates
The RNC is launching an ambitious campaign that partners with state parties to build a recruitment program for minority candidates. The party also will hire communication specialists to work with Republican minority leaders to maximize their voice in the media.
3. Don't be afraid of going on 'The Daily Show'
To better reach young voters, the report recommends that Republicans get their candidates on more shows in popular culture and tap into the power of celebrity endorsements.
From the report:
Establish an RNC Celebrity Task Force of personalities in the entertainment industry to host events for the RNC and allow donors to participate in entertainment events as a way to attract younger voters. ... Republican leaders should participate in and actively prepare for interviews with The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, MTV and magazines such as People, UsWeekly, etc., as well as radio stations that are popular with the youth demographic.
4. Give Democratic candidates hell, and dish it early
One of President Barack Obama's re-election campaign's greatest successes was defining Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney early in the election. It was very difficult for Romney to shake that image of him as an out-of-touch rich boss by the time the Obama campaign was done with him.
The report recommends establishing an outside group "that focuses solely on research" of Republican opponents to "define Democrats early in election cycles." They want to see conservative groups tracking Democratic candidates' every move, while building websites that do "nothing but post inappropriate Democrat utterances and act as a clearinghouse for information on Democrats."
5. Train new Republican activists with online and mobile campaign education programs
Republicans will build a mobile voter registration program that makes it easier for voters to register online. For those who want to become actively involved in the party, the RNC is overhauling its Political Education Department to teach activists how to better use voter data and buy political ads on television and online. All of those resources will be made available on the Web.
6. Release the voter data
The Republican Party has billions of pieces of voter data that it plans to make available to friendly vendors and campaigns in a way that allows them to create new apps and programs based on the information.
The RNC hopes to integrate voter data into everything it does—from fundraising to door-to-door canvassing—to ensure every decision is more calculated and results are measurable.
The party plans to establish a new field office near Silicon Valley to have close access with tech firms, while holding "hackathons" in "tech-savvy cities" to ensure it remains up to date on the latest technologies.
7. Shrink the primary
If you thought the Republican primary process felt like it lasted forever, well, so did the top brass at the Republican Party. Next time, the RNC will compress the Republican primary season to a few months in 2016 so the candidates don't have to spend so much money and resources battling each other.
8. Hold fewer primary debates
Before Republicans chose a presidential candidate in 2012, they held more than 20 debates. Never again. The RNC will conduct only about a dozen debates that will begin no earlier than September 2015.
"While we were playing footsie debating each other 23 times, what was the other side doing? They were spending potentially hundreds of millions of dollars on data, technology, voter outreach," RNC Chairman Reince Priebus said Sunday on CBS' "Face the Nation." "They were getting the job done."
Indeed, many of the Republican primary candidates' most embarrassing moments occurred on debate stages across the country.
9. Adios, August convention
As part of the emphasis on securing a presidential candidate earlier in the primary process, the Republican National Convention will be held in June or July. That will allow the party and the campaign to coordinate sooner and, along with outside groups, help the candidate build more momentum before the November election.
10. Change the tone, but not the message
Republicans believe they have a communication problem, not a message problem. While the Growth and Opportunity Project was never meant to be a policy document, there appears to be no movement in the direction of shifting principles in the near future. “I don’t think our platform is the issue,” Priebus said during a stop on his listening tour in Iowa earlier this month.
Read the full report: