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Republicans staff up, focus on data with eye on Nevada's big-ticket races in 2018

Megan Messerly
Megan Messerly
Election 2018IndyBlog
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The Republican National Committee is hosting a summit in Las Vegas on Friday, bringing together GOP consulting firms and campaigns — big and small — to talk about how to turn the party’s massive data program into on-the-ground results.

With an open gubernatorial seat and high-profile Senate race, Nevada is considered a key state for national parties in 2018. That’s why the party started staffing up in June, since hiring 10 paid staff members and onboarding more than 500 fellows through nearly 100 trainings in all 17 counties of the state.

It’s also why the party has gathered Republicans across the state, including three of the biggest GOP consulting firms, j3 Strategies, November Inc. and Red Rock Strategies, for the Friday summit.

Over the last two cycles, the party has built up a $200 million predictive analytics system, known as its National Voter Scores program, that tracks voters on how likely voters are to take an action or have some sort of set behavior, such as turn out to the polls or vote Republican. But party officials say they’re doubling down on the program this cycle and have already collected a billion data points across Nevada’s 1.6 million voters ahead of the 2018 election.

The data program allows the party to track not only voter viewpoints at a static moment but how those attitudes have changed over time, including whether certain voters have moved closer to or further away from the party. The modeling also gives field operatives a sense of what type of outreach is needed at individual doors — whether a person is likely to vote Republican but just isn’t sure whether they’re going to vote or whether the person is likely to vote but is undecided about which candidate to choose.

The system is available to Republican candidates up and down the ballot, from the U.S. Senate race to municipal elections, and individual campaigns also funnel their own information back into the system, though that data is siloed ahead of the primary election.

“The strength of this is that it’s available to all Republicans, whether you’re running for president or dog catcher,” said Rick Gorka, the RNC’s deputy communications director. “So you know who you need to talk to and convince in order to be successful.”

Party officials point to the 2017 congressional race in Georgia to show the specificity of the modeling they’re able to create through the program. Brian Parnitzke, director of turnout and targeting, said that they were able to identify 18,634 unallocated voters to target in the final days of the race and ultimately able to predict the outcome of the race down to one one-hundredth of a percent.

They’re also focusing on voter registration, not only at community events but going door to door to unregistered houses in targeted Assembly districts and precincts. The number of Republicans has been slowly inching up — beating the Democrats over the last several months — though Democrats still lead Republicans in voter registration by about 76,000 active registered voters.

The party’s goal is to rally Republican voters around the party — along with its issues and values — rather than any one candidate.

“We’re building relationships with these folks,” said state RNC Director Dan Coats. “Ultimately they may have come because of a certain candidate, but they stay because of the investment our field staff and fellows have put into that volunteer.”

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