GOP Borrows Obama’s 2012 Playbook for 2014 and 2016

Republicans seek to emulate Obama’s winning electoral strategy.

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If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, the Republicans are giving President Obama the highest praise for his successful 2012 re-election campaign.

The Republican National Committee acknowledges trying to imitate Obama's methods in the most fundamental ways by borrowing Team Obama's techniques for organizing at the grass roots level, which turned out to be far superior to the efforts of GOP nominee Mitt Romney and the RNC.

"The RNC is working to implement a 50-state strategy to have boots on the ground earlier than ever before, focusing on developing better relationships in more communities across the country," says RNC spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski. "While the Obama campaign built this for one candidate, we are building a permanent campaign to help the Republican party up and down the ticket."

[READ: Obama Bashes GOP in Sweeping Economic Speech]

GOP officials acknowledge that their get-out-the-vote operation was badly outdated in 2012, and they didn't get their base voters – registered Republicans and those who leaned Republican – to the polls as efficiently as Obama did in generating turnout among Democrats and Democrat-leaning voters.

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House Speaker John Boehner's office has already released a statement critical of President Obama's budget, which he will pitch in a speech in Tennessee on Tuesday.

As I describe in my new book "Prisoners of the White House," which analyzes how presidents stay in touch, Obama pollster Joel Benenson ran rings around the GOP with his research that sliced and diced the electorate in important new ways. This gave the Obama campaign better insights into the mood and desires of the electorate, and enabled the Democratic campaign to address the main issues far better than Romney did.

Now the RNC is moving aggressively to use many of the same methods to improve the Republican party's chances in the 2014 midterm elections and in the 2016 presidential campaign.

[BROWSE: Political Cartoons on the Republican Party]

The RNC is sending specially trained new organizers to New Jersey and Virginia, two major states with high-profile gubernatorial elections this fall. The party also plans to send special organizers to 10 other states with competitive Senate, House and gubernatorial races in 2014, such as Florida, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, RNC officials said. The number of GOP organizers is to greatly expand for the remainder of 2013, and spread to other states beyond that.

One big goal of the GOP is to emulate the Obama campaign's recruitment of volunteers who have deep roots in their communities and can enlist their neighbors and friends to get active or at least get interested in politics. The GOP approach in 2012 was more impersonal, but Republican officials say that approach will now change as the GOP adopts Obama's person-to-person emphasis.

 

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  • Ken Walsh covers the White House and politics for U.S. News. He writes the daily blog "Ken Walsh's Washington" for usnews.com and "The Presidency" column for the U.S. News Weekly. He is the author of the new book "Prisoners of the White House: The Isolation of America's Presidents and the Crisis of Leadership." Ken Walsh can be reached at kwalsh@usnews.com and on Facebook and Twitter.