Republican personalities clashed at the Heritage Foundation’s Bloggers Briefing today as six different strategists met to discuss GOP reforms and the electoral viability of the party going into the 2014 and 2016 elections.
While all agreed that technology was an issue for the party in the 2012, each speaker had a different diagnosis, leading to conflict on both policy and outreach.
Patrick Ruffini, the president of Engage Media, started by criticizing the Party’s uncreative culture. “I think its sort of emblematic of a broader problem, which is sort of a lack of intellectual curiosity in our campaigns,” Ruffini said. “It’s a culture that trusts the gut instincts of a few, you know, legendary guru campaign consultants who are going to come in and solve all your problems.”
Karl Rove is one such campaign consultant, who has faced some backlash from Tea Party groups for the creation of his Conservative Victory Project.
Alex Lundry, Vice President of TargetPoint Consulting, argued for creating a “common watering hole” of voter data for the GOP. “Having an integrated data file, voter file” that is relatively open, he explained, “that is the foundational start of turning this around.”
He expressed faith in the GOP “autopsy” report, which pledged financial and logistical support for open-source data software, and digital and social training for staffers.
Transom and Heartland Institute editor Ben Domenech articulated a skeptical view of the “autopsy” report’s promotion of a more digital culture. “Tech can’t take the place of voter contact,” he stated. “It’s more about understanding that you have to put that army of people in the streets who are able to use the data you gathered, who are able to use that technology you created.”
Domenech’s more old-fashioned, policy-oriented view, especially regarding the repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), clashed with New York Times Magazine contributor Robert Draper’s, who wrote an article last month about the GOP’s obsolescence.
In the most fiery of the debates, the two argued mostly about the 2014 Ryan budget’s effect on outreach to both women and minorities. Draper initiated the argument by telling an anecdote about two women in a focus group.
“What was clear was that two of them were pro-life, but they were tired of listening to Republicans agitate against pro-life,” he stated. “They did not understand why Republicans were bent on repealing Obamacare after it now seemly had become settled law.”
“It’s the party of ‘no’,” Draper concluded.
Domenech shot back with the fact that Republicans do have alternatives, and that there still is time to repeal Obamacare. “I am unconvinced that your belief that people will not respond to higher and higher premiums is not going to have a political result,” Domenech stated.
A back-and-forth then ensued about whether the Republican Party has been a constructive force in politics, with Domenech finishing with the fact that the idea that the GOP doesn’t have an alternative to the ACA is actually a “media myth.”
The briefing showed that the GOP and its consultants still have much work to do before the 2014 midterm and the 2016 presidential elections. While all agreed that a digital divide exists between the two parties, how to use the tools of social media and analytics remains in wide dispute.