RNC chief of staff describes the $175 million tool that wins elections (they hope)

Story highlights

  • The RNC's chief of staff described predictive modeling as superior to polling for tracking voters
  • Katie Walsh also said voters are quick to "come home" when Donald Trump stays on message

Party People is a new podcast from CNN where a pair of conservative CNN contributors talk to influential voices about the future of conservatism and the Republican party.

(CNN)Republican National Committee's chief of staff Katie Walsh said her party has spent more than $175 million over the past four years to improve predictive modeling to prevent the kind of defeat Mitt Romney faced at the polls four years ago, catching many party officials by surprise.

"There were people walking into election week 2012 that thought we were going to win Pennsylvania, and for sure we were going to win Ohio and, for sure, were were going to win Florida and the polling was just really, quite frankly, off," Walsh told CNN's "Party People" podcast hosts Kevin Madden and Mary Katherine Ham in a conversation less than a week before Election Day.
    In 2012, President Barack Obama went on to win Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida as well as a lot of other states for a grand total 332 electoral college votes, far above the votes needed to defeat Romney and win re-election.
    Walsh said the party has learned lessons from that loss eschewing a reliance on polling for a more predictive modeling program called "voter scores," which gives each would-be voter in the 190-million member voter file a numerical value, 1-100, on how likely they are to vote and how likely they are to vote Republican.
    "The beauty of predictive modeling is you're watching an electorate voter-by-voter over a long period of time," Walsh said. "You're watching their movement, you're watching what they care about, you're watching what they respond to to and there are a lot of upsides to this."
    Walsh highlighted success of their efforts in the 2014 midterms -- particularly the North Carolina Senate race where Thom Tillis defeated incumbent Democrat Kay Hagan, despite polls showing the opposite result.
    As for this year's race, Walsh said the RNC's goal is to focus on being the voter turnout infrastructure for Donald Trump's presidential campaign, which Walsh described as originally comprising of "10 guys and a Twitter account."
    Walsh said her takeaway from the RNC's data, which is not publicly shared, is how much voters don't want to vote for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. Voters are looking for any reason to vote for someone else, she said.
    "I think another thing that we've seen is that when Mr. Trump stays on message, people come home real quick," Walsh said.
    "That's usually only for about five minutes," Madden responded.
    "Let's give him 45 minutes," Ham added.
    To hear what Walsh thinks will be Trump's lasting impact on the Republican party, her Show Me state roots and what's the key piece of data she's looking for going into Election Day, listen to CNN's "Party People" podcast.
    Get CNN's "Party People" podcast at CNN, Stitcher, TuneInRadio or iTunes.