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Why the RNC built a year-round ground game

By Reince Priebus
updated 9:37 AM EDT, Tue March 18, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Reince Priebus marks a year of changes at the Republican National Committee
  • The RNC created a continuous ground game to put better tools in the field, he says
  • It's changing how presidential primaries, debates will run
  • Priebus says shift proved successful in Florida special election victory

Editor's note: Reince Priebus is chairman of the Republican National Committee. You can follow him on Twitter @Reince.

(CNN) -- Aurora Ogg wakes up every day and goes to work with one mission: connecting people in her community with the Republican Party, so that in November they can be proud to cast a ballot for our candidates.

Aurora is the Asian Coalition regional director in Colorado. She's been on the ground since September of last year, earlier than field staffers like her are usually hired. And she wasn't alone.

Following the release of the Growth and Opportunity Project report -- a comprehensive post-2012 election review I commissioned -- the Republican National Committee committed to building a permanent, year-round ground game. We immediately began locating and hiring field staff all across the country.

Aurora has the full support of the RNC and our resources. Thanks to our multimillion-dollar investment in technology, and the private sector talent we've brought on board, she has at her fingertips a suite of tools that allow her to identify voters we need to target in her community.

Reince Priebus
Reince Priebus

The data she's plugged into is the best in politics. We've collected data from commercial and political organizations to make sure that we have the most current information needed to contact voters effectively. We've invested in new predictive analytics that are revolutionizing how our campaigns understand what matters to each individual voter.

Not only are we making the data better, we are improving how other Republicans can access our data and provide data back to us. Our new voter relationship management tool, GOP Beacon, makes it easier for people to download and see the data. Our new connecting tool, or application programming interface, allows other committees, candidates and vendors to receive our data automatically and send data back to us in real time.

To ensure we recruit the best talent to develop the best tools, we launched a startup-style initiative within the RNC called Para Bellum Labs, and we opened a field office in Silicon Valley.

In addition to all these data resources, field staffers like Aurora are given a communications playbook with media lists, information on important surrogates, suggested events to attend and messaging on key issues, as well as access to media training, research and social media help.

This isn't just one person's story. It's the story of our field staffers across the country -- state directors, data directors, and Hispanic, black, and Asian-American engagement staffers. The RNC has also hired staff dedicated to engaging better with women, youth, people of faith and conservative allies and groups. We have hundreds of staff fanned out, especially in critical midterm states, supporting our candidates and growing our party. Today, 91% of our political staff is in the field.

They support whole teams of precinct captains. We've recruited more than 12,000 captains nationwide. Those captains have teams of volunteers whose job it is to maintain lasting relationships with sets of people in their communities. They're listening to their concerns and making sure they hear about the issues they care about.

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This is all done alongside our state parties and sister committees. That's why we've invested millions in our state parties to date.

In addition to our on-the-ground work, we're looking ahead and changing the 2016 presidential primary process so that we have better debates, handpicked moderators and an earlier convention. We have two overarching goals: holding a primary that is more informative and engaging for voters, and having a nominee who enters the general election in a position of strength.

It's been one year since I announced the first actions we'd take in response to the Growth and Opportunity Project. Today, I can report that we've fundamentally reshaped the way we do business. The power of our new tools and new strategy was on display last week, when we helped David Jolly win an important special election in Florida's 13th Congressional District. That victory has Democrats worried about November.

Of course, this is just a snapshot. And it's also just the beginning. There's much more ahead, including an ad campaign we're launching this week -- a six-figure ad buy in 14 Senate target states.

This campaign is about answering the question, "Why should I be a Republican?" People have told us that we need to better communicate what it is Republicans stand for.

But instead of the RNC telling people, we asked Republicans to tell the RNC -- and the rest of the country -- what they stand for. Why are they Republicans? And that's what you'll see in these ads. We hope this campaign will help us have that important and ongoing conversation.

As for me, I'm a Republican because I believe all Americans, regardless of where they come from, regardless of where they're going, should have the chance to create their own American Dreams.

That's a message we're taking to every American, to every community. And thanks to the actions we've taken in the last year, we're better equipped than ever before to do that.

We're going to keep working to earn every voter's trust, and we're going keep fighting to earn every American's vote. We're guided by the principle that no voter should be taken for granted; no voter should be overlooked.

Because as the great Vince Lombardi, former coach of my Green Bay Packers, said, "The only place success comes before work is in the dictionary."

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook.com/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Reince Priebus.

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