FROM: RNC, NRSC, NRCC
TO: Interested Parties
RE: How We Did It
The American people have entrusted Republicans with a Senate majority. Republicans have expanded our majority in the House of Representatives to historic levels. Republicans will soon take the reins as their states’ newly elected and re-elected governors, even in President Obama’s home state.
This is a victory for the Republican Party and an important step forward for the country. It was a rejection of the policies and candidates supported by President Obama and Hillary Clinton.
This did not happen by accident. A wave election was not inevitable. Republicans had to turn out voters that would not otherwise have voted, and we won in places that Obama won in 2012. For months, Democrats expected to win; they bragged that they would win. They would have won, had we not beat them at their own game.
Unsurprisingly, Democrats are now claiming that they couldn’t expect to overcome a wave. That’s simply their excuse for getting beat at their own game.
As recently as last month, DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz confidently predicted, “We’re going to have an election in which we pick up seats in the House of Representatives, and I think that we’ll hold the Senate. And I know there’s a lot of pundits who are predicting otherwise, but I think there will be a lot of surprises.”
The day before the election, the DSCC predicted Kay Hagan would win in North Carolina because of the number of Democrat field offices, paid organizers, and volunteers there.
The truth is, Democrat turnout was up in Colorado and North Carolina. They did their job. Republicans did our job better. Without a superior Republican ground game, Republican candidates would not have won the victories they did.
As Democrat pollster Celinda Lake told National Journal, Democrats “underestimated the GOP ground game.”
Almost two years ago we began laying out a strategy, based on of the recommendations from the Growth and Opportunity Project. This cycle more than ever before our committees worked together to improve our data capabilities, implement vigorous recruiting strategies and grow our online presence.
In early 2013, the RNC began laying the groundwork for a year-round, permanent ground game. Through the RNC’s Victory365 program, the RNC was able to recruit and deploy over 30,000 volunteers to mobilize Republicans on the local level.
Thanks to investments in data, digital, and technology, RNC volunteers were equipped with new mobile apps for door-to-door canvassing. The data they collected was then fed back in real time, making it accessible for our campaigns and committees to fine-tune our voter targeting. Seventy percent of our data is now coming in from apps, compared to just 5 percent last cycle.
With improved voter scoring, campaigns and committees can more easily target voters based on their likelihood to turn out or on the issues that they care about. This played a key role in getting Republicans who don’t normally vote to turn out—and to turn out early—as well as to make appeals to voters who were particularly upset about Democrat policies such as ObamaCare.
Republicans focused on a strategy of expanding the electorate, beating Democrats at their own game. In all Senate target states, hundreds of staff and thousands of volunteers identified 2,450,747 low propensity voters to engage early and often.
The RNC effort made over 35 million voter contacts, with an emphasis on personal contacts through door knocking. The committee invested in quality of contact versus volume of contacts for the first time.
Persuasion ads on social media proved to be very effective in turning people out, notably ads that encouraged people not to be the only one on their block not to vote. That message was tested in the field and online. That informed the content for the mail sent into target states to get voters to return absentee ballots.
None of this would have been possible without record-breaking fundraising. The RNC not only outpaced the DNC this cycle, but it also consistently beat its own records for online fundraising.
Chairman Jerry Moran began building his team at the NRSC in January 2013. At the time, smart electoral pundits and prognosticators suggested that a supermajority was within reach for Senate Democrats. No one was suggesting twenty months ago that Republicans would win six or more seats in 2014.
The path to building our Republican Majority wasn’t easy. There were five key steps:
- Recruit top-notch candidates who could win within their states. Doing so after a tough 2012 election cycle wasn’t easy.
- Convince supporters and donors that this time was different and the mistakes of the past would not be repeated.
- Properly navigate potentially problematic primaries.
- Modernize digital, data and turnout operations to be competitive.
- Expand the map into purple and blue states AND defeat more than three Democratic incumbents in a single cycle—something that hasn’t been done since the Reagan landslide in 1980.
The NRSC raised more this cycle than any previous one and also had the lowest cost of fundraising in the history of the organization. The NRSC also set a new online fundraising record, generated by nineteen consecutive all-time monthly online fundraising totals.
The candidate recruitment process was managed much differently than at the DSCC. Recruiting did not need to be completed early in the cycle. The focus was on recruiting quality candidates across the map and placing a premium on quality, energetic and inspirational candidates who fit their respective states. Several contested primaries, for example in Iowa and Georgia, were healthy and would produce stronger general election candidates.
The NRSC designed and implemented Candidate High Intensity Training sessions that provided policy and media training to more than 20 Senate candidates. In January 2014 the NRSC brought on a debate coach and media trainer who spent endless hours working with a dozen Republican Senate candidates for the better part of a year.
Former candidates going back to 2006 expressed frustration that they could not find quality staff, particularly communications staff. In coordination with the NRCC, the NRSC designed and implemented Communications Boot Camps that trained more than 100 potential campaign press secretaries.
These efforts paid off and saved the committee from having to spend millions of dollars to prop up poor candidates, allowing us instead to focus all resources on what Majority Leader McConnell has called the best recruiting class he has seen in his lifetime.
House Republicans woke up Wednesday morning with a stronger and more diverse House majority. In fact, it is the largest GOP House majority since the 1920s.
The NRCC charted the path to a larger House majority in early 2013—launching the “Drive to 245” and exceeding it on Election Day. Victory was the product of recruiting the right candidates, focusing on seven Democrats wildly out-of-step with their conservative districts, and dominating special elections—all while overcoming the vaunted Obama campaign operation and playing in several competitive open seats.
The NRCC took the task of candidate recruitment seriously, focusing on finding qualified leaders, capable candidates, and a diverse field.
The NRCC made a full-scale commitment to data this cycle. In January 2013, the NRCC created a Strategy Department to focus on gathering voter information and using it to win elections. By using a winnowed version of the RNC’s voter file, the NRCC was able to customize and personalize vote goals for campaigns and produce a set of standards and practices for campaigns to follow.
The NRCC also modernized its website and saw tremendous success at online fundraising, raising more in October 2014 than the NRCC did in the entire 2012 cycle.
Exactly 729 days from Obama’s election night call, House Democrats found themselves weaker than they’ve been in nearly a century. In January, there will be more Republicans in the United States House of Representatives since the advent of broadcast television.
Another reason for this year’s Republican victories is the backfiring of the Democratic playbook. Candidates pushed back against Democrats’ false attacks, particularly their singled-minded focus on misleading women voters.
By navigating these attacks, Senate and House candidates alike were able to open up a positive dialogue with voters, leaving Democrat candidates discredited and, at times, embarrassed by their failed tactics. Democrats had to defend their outlandish attacks—often in the face of editorial board criticisms.
Republicans also saw gains in early voter turnout. By turning out low-propensity voters early, Republicans arrived at Election Day in a stronger position than in years past. Again, this was made possible by a laser-like focus on turning out voters who otherwise would not have gone to the polls.
The president’s unpopularity and the failure of his policies certainly were a major factor in this election. In many ways, the election was a referendum on those policies. To Democrats’ chagrin, the president himself said as much. But that message alone was not enough. It took the right candidates, the right offensive strategy, superior data, successful fundraising, minority engagement, and a host of other factors to turn the president’s unpopularity into a winning year for Republicans.