Republicans Aren’t “Catching Up” to Dems Turnout Efforts, They’re Beating Them

Prior to last week’s rash of positive polls the question for Democrats was just how bad things were going to be. As long-time political prognosticator Charlie Cook wrote, “Midterm elections come in three varieties for the White House party: bad, really bad, and horrific.”

Two weeks ago things were pointing towards horrific. The president’s job approval numbers are terrible, almost every Democrat in a competitive Senate race is flawed, GOP enthusiasm is high, the foreign policy situation is unsettled, and Obamacare is decidedly unpopular.

And yet the midterm race for a Senate majority remains firmly up in the air. Why? There are many reasons, not the least of which is Democrats’ pouring tons of money into political ads in an effort to turn the tide. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid also has a strategy of abusing his procedural powers to shut down the rights of the minority and focus any negative attention on himself. As POLITICO’s Manu Raju writes:

“As he’s tightened his grip on the Senate and protected vulnerable Democrats from casting politically tough votes, furious Republicans have made the mantra “fire Reid” a rallying cry and major fundraising push ahead of the midterm elections.

But in Reid’s mind Republicans are training all their fire on a guy most voters barely even know. . .

For that reason, Reid has been more than willing to shield his vulnerable Democrats from casting votes on politically charged amendments even if he takes sustained fire from the GOP for running a dysfunctional Senate.”

Will that be enough to win? Perhaps. Much of the midterm plot will be written over the next couple of weeks as undecided voters break one way or the other. Many, though by no means all, pundits tend to think that President Obama’s tainted brand will push many fence-sitters towards the GOP, but that’s far from a foregone conclusion. That’s why Republicans must fight the tendency to play it safe in the run up to Election Day. There may simply not be enough fumes in the anti-Obama tank to carry us to the finish line.

Fortunately, we can win the battle of ideas. And a story on the GOP’s new effort to improve its voter-data capabilities shows why. Kimberly Strassel reports for The Wall Street Journal:

Mr. Reda, Ethiopian by birth, American by choice, was recruited by the RNC in November as its chief data officer.

This room is where I met Mr. Reda last week and pointed out that Democrats are already ridiculing the Republicans’ big-data effort, claiming that there’s no way the GOP can catch the Obama turnout machine. The comment causes the otherwise serious young engineer to break out in a mischievous grin. “I don’t want to catch up to a presidential campaign from 2012,” he says, making 2012 sound like so last century. “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.”

The anecdote is important, not only because it shows a much-needed focus on building an information infrastructure capable of winning elections, but because it shows the power of conservatism’s central idea – to never settle for the present because the market is always changing, always moving forward.

Democrats firmly believe that a group of bureaucrats walking and talking in the marble halls of Washington can understand, control and improve the free market economy. But the power of Republicans’ ethos is their belief in the power of entrepreneurs. As economist Wayne Brough recently wrote, entrepreneurs and regulators “work in different spaces, with completely different views of the world.” Entrepreneurs “identify unmet demands” and are willing to adapt, innovate and work fast to fill the gap. Regulators on the other hand are “backward-looking” and live to “address purported market failures that have already emerged” based on past behavior.

If we can harness and broadcast those differences we won’t have to rely on Obama’s unpopularity to win votes, we need only count on the impact of our ideas.