- The Washington Times - Monday, March 17, 2014

Five members of an independent panel tasked by the Republican National Committee after a disappointing 2012 election cycle with figuring out what the party needs to do going forward report “tremendous progress” on several key fronts from when they issued their postmortem one year ago.

The so-called RNC “autopsy report” made recommendations in three key areas: Engaging voters in a more positive way with a robust field operation, modernizing data and digital tools, and overhauling the party’s presidential primary and nominating process.

The authors of the report borne out of the Growth and Opportunity Project — Henry Barbour, Sally Bradshaw, Ari Fleisher, Zori Fonalledas, and Glenn McCall — say the party has made many hires in both the national and field offices and that the mentality of writing off blocks of states or demographic voters has been forgotten.

By the fall of 2013, the authors wrote in a Monday piece for RealClearPolitics, the RNC had more staff in the field than in their headquarters. Ninety-one percent of staff is state-based and includes data directors and minority engagement staffers in 14 targeted states for U.S. Senate seats, and the RNC has made investments in every state, with more than $12 million in political and state party investments in a year.

The national party has also ramped up its technology campaign, the authors wrote, hiring a Chief Technology Officer, Chief Digital Officer, and Chief Data Officer and opening an office in Silicon Valley.

On the primary front, the RNC voted at its winter meeting in January to condense its 2016 presidential primary calendar in the hopes of avoiding a drawn-out battle like the one in 2012.

Under the new schedule, Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada will host the opening primary contests in February 2016 — a month later than recent presidential cycles.

The remaining caucus and primary elections will take place between March and mid-May and the party’s national convention — which was held in late August in 2012 — will moved up and held between June 27 and July 18.

“The truth is the work has only begun,” the authors concluded. “Our charge was to make recommendations for the long-term growth and health of the party—not for short term, short-lived gains. Even as we evaluate the work that’s going on, we recognize that there is much more left to do. But one year after the release of the Growth and Opportunity Project report, we’re glad to see Republicans are doing things differently.”

Democratic National Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz has scheduled a news conference at the National Press Club Tuesday to respond to the one-year anniversary of the report.

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