Closing the parties’ tech gap

Reporters take notes during a panel discussion at the U.S. Capitol, Jan. 19, 2012.
Reporters take notes during a panel discussion at the U.S. Capitol, Jan. 19, 2012.
Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
After Republicans struggled in the 2012 cycle, party leaders launched an “autopsy” process intended to identify where the party fell short and what the party must do to get back on track. The result was a lengthy report, most of which was quickly ignored by GOP officials who didn’t want to change.
 
There were, however, exceptions. Republicans generally embraced, for example, the idea that it must improve its technological reach, expand its online presence, and close the “tech gap” that has benefited Democrats.
 
To that end, the New York Times had an interesting piece over the weekend noting outreach efforts among Republicans working in the tech industry, hoping to woo their colleagues into the GOP. As part of the recruiting process, Republicans apparently avoid calling themselves Republicans.
At an after-hours hacking event at Microsoft’s headquarters in Redmond, Wash., Aaron Ginn approached an engineer whose face was buried in a laptop.
 
Like more than a few techies, Mr. Ginn could pass for a skateboarder or a member of a boy band: As he circulated, he wore a red Reebok cap, its bill tilted high over his short dark hair, a silver and black cross around his neck and a green T-shirt printed with ”Lincoln Labs.” That’s the name of the talent-scouting group he founded last year with two friends. But unlike others in this game, Mr. Ginn was in search of a rare technology-industry breed: Republicans. […]
 
Mr. Ginn, who worked on Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign, describes himself as socially and fiscally conservative. But not right away. Instead, he takes a back-door approach to finding like-minded people with tech skills. He picks gently around the issues, rarely even mentioning the party name. ”I avoid saying ‘Republican’ so people don’t think I’m part of crazy right-wing stuff,” Mr. Ginn said.
Ginn added, ”People have branding trauma. If I identify myself as this, they think I am best friends with Sarah Palin.”
 
The article went on to note other tech-industry Republicans working on a voter database to let their party “match voter files with Facebook identities … to permit more targeted ads on the social networking site.”
 
In other words, Republicans hope to close the tech gap by tackling projects the Obama campaign completed years ago, all while hiding the fact that they’re actually Republicans.
 
Perhaps party officials are having better luck advancing Republicans’ online presence?
 
If you support Democratic Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick’s bid for reelection, stay away from annkirkpatrick.com. The site might greet visitors with a welcoming photo of the Arizona congresswoman and a screaming “Kirkpatrick for Congress” logo, but that design belies its true agenda.
 
Funded and created by the Republican Party’s congressional campaign wing, the site’s true aim is in the fine print: to defeat Kirkpatrick, described as “a huge embarrassment to Arizona.”
 
The National Republican Congressional Committee bought up hundreds of URLs ahead of the 2014 election cycle and has created nearly 20 websites appearing to support Democratic candidates in all but the small print, a spokesman for the campaign confirmed Thursday.
When we first discussed this last week, there were six instances in which the National Republican Congressional Committee had created misleading websites, made to appear legitimate, and in some cases even accepting contributions from Democratic donors who fell for the trick. But the Los Angeles Times’ report found 18 races in which the NRCC gambit has been implanted – so far.
 
Republican officials have said they’re prepared to return contributions made by those who feel duped by the NRCC scheme, but they insist the websites are technically legal.
 
Taken together, a year after the RNC’s “autopsy” focused the party’s attention on technology, this appears to be the best Republican officials can do right now: misleading websites, 2012 technology, and Republican recruiters afraid to use the word “Republican.”
 

NRCC and Technology

Closing the parties' tech gap