It’s the beginning of the end of the campaign season and boy have we come a long way.
Following the 2012 elections the GOP recognized the need for change. As Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said in a blistering post-election assessment: “There’s no one reason we lost. Our message was weak; our grand game was insufficient; we weren’t inclusive; we were behind in both data and digital; and our primary and debate process needed improvement.”
While Republicans were going through a much-needed self-assessment, Democrats and pundits saw a political dynasty in the making. They predicted that a new coalition of women, minorities, young adults and cultured professionals would create a demographic powerhouse that would allow Democrats to cruise to Congressional majorities and pave the way for an uncompromisingly liberal president.
Well-respected pollsters like Stu Rothenberg predicted in 2012 that a “supermajority [is] within reach for Senate Democrats.” Just nine months ago the Cook Political Report gave Republicans a slim 25 percent chance of winning a Senate majority. In early September the New York Times’ Nate Cohn was optimistic that “today the Democratic path to victory looks as clear as it has at any point this year.” And even as late as September 16 the Washington Post’s Election Lab gave Democrats a 51 percent chance of holding the Senate.
Today, just two years after the presidential year shellacking the Republican Party has emerged with lessons learned and momentum on its side.
Yes, a lot of work will still need to be done to address lingering problems in the party. And yes, Republicans’ positive position owes a great deal to a bumbling president and a favorable map.
But, that’s not to take away from some of the great things our party generally, and College Republicans specifically, have done to put us in a position to win.
First and foremost, Republicans recruited great candidates. They were well spoken, issue-driven people (not politicians) with great resumes and an even greater sense of civic duty. They did far more than just avoid the verbal gaffes that doomed some prior candidates, they proactively made the case that they were the best person for the job.
The party has also made some dramatic investments to boost its data infrastructure. The goal, as Azarius Reda—who runs the RNC’s in-house tech incubator—says, is not just to equal Democrats’ data analytics and turnout effort, but to beat it.
“I don’t want to catch up to a presidential campaign from 2012,” he told the Wall Street Journal. “What we’re doing here is what a tech startup would do in 2014. Data science has traveled a lot in just the past few years.”
Perhaps most importantly, Republicans have successfully reached out to demographic groups that were thought to be easy pickups for Democrats. For instance, College Republicans have made tremendous investments in youth-centric messaging in order to reach new audiences with the conservative vision of job creation and entrepreneurship; in an expanded field program to help spread the word on college campuses across the U.S.; and in ad-buys to engage young adults in a medium that often overlooks their voting cues. As a result, polls show that young adults, which were once “pillars of the Obama coalition,” are now more likely to vote for a Republican than a Democrat in the midterm elections.
Will these changes and investments pay off in tomorrow’s midterms? We’ll find out tomorrow. But no matter what, Republicans have come a long way in a very short period of time. We have the right candidates, we have a winning message, and we’ve made the necessary investments to have our party’s voice heard. So as we turn the page on this year’s midterm elections we’ll unite behind the hope that it will be the start of a new Republican chapter in Washington.