- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Republican National Committee, stung by two consecutive losses in presidential elections, is launching a program to train campaign operatives, political activists and election volunteers on how to wage a better ground game in 2016 and keep GOP voters engaged and motivated to go to the polls.

The Republican Leadership Initiative is the latest effort by RNC Chairman Reince Priebus to level the playing field against the political machine that helped President Obama woo voters digitally and on the streets and win back-to-back presidential elections against John McCain and Mitt Romney.

It comes on top of extensive efforts by the GOP’s governing body to create both detailed databases with email and social media connections to potential voters and new video and Web products aimed at appealing to the digital generation.

The centerpiece of the new effort is a six-week unpaid fellowship where activists get extensive training that they then can take back to the field to recruit additional help and wage get-out-the-vote, voter registration and mobilization campaigns in the states. The effort also plans numerous workshops on issues key to keeping voters engaged and motivated, even when elections are off in the distance.

“With the Republican Leadership Initiative, we will take our ground game to the next level — equipping the next generation of Republican campaign professionals, activists, and volunteers,” Mr. Priebus wrote in a private email to RNC committee members this month.

Mr. Priebus noted that while Republicans expanded their voter outreach during a successful 2014 election that swept the GOP into power in the Senate, more needed to be done to ensure a win in the presidential election next year.

“In 2014, our field operation was unprecedented in its size and scope. For 2016, we have to go above and beyond that, and with the Republican Leadership Initiative, we will have the largest, earliest, most effective and most diverse staff in the history of our party,” he wrote.

RNC officials told The Washington Times the new training initiative will be funded by the RNC in coordination with its affiliate party organizations in the states.

Mr. Priebus said whoever is the GOP’s standard-bearer next year “will have the support of a trained, dedicated, and prepared team of organizers and volunteers, which will not only help Republicans win the White House but also help us win races up and down the ballot.”

The leadership initiative Mr. Priebus has announced is apparently the final step in what longtime presidential campaign strategist David Carney called a “long overdue” effort to put well-trained operatives and volunteers in the field in every state all the time.

That means operatives and volunteers — year in and year out in one seamless effort — without a break from one presidential election to the next, the RNC says.

“This initiative is a twist in the basic concept that well-trained and informed volunteers and staffers will help build a stronger party for the long term,” Mr. Carney explained. “There is a thirst for this type of training, and it’s a tangible product the RNC can provide to state and local parties and their candidates.”

Mr. Priebus‘ initiative will be “recruiting in every state and every demographic to produce fellows who will engage in a six-week, unpaid fellowship equipping future operatives with the essential skills they need to better function as professional field organizers.”

“Winning campaigns is about building lasting relationships with voters, and we cannot do that without quality leaders and activists in the field,” the RNC says in an outline of its plan emailed to activists.

In addition to the fellowships, the RNC is planning workshops nationwide to help enhance skills like “story telling, one-on-one meetings, team building, house meetings, voter registration, workshops, strategy sessions, and voter engagement,” according to the planning documents.

The national committee says its RLI aims to give “activists across the country the opportunity to develop organizing skills and cultivate an extensive volunteer network in key target states.”

Activists who are selected for the fellowships will get extensive training aimed at turning them into professional field organizers. Accepted candidates will be divided into two categories based on weekly hours committed to the training — full fellows (30-plus hours) and associates (15-plus hours).

The RNC says the initiative’s initial “summer session will focus on 11 battleground states before widely expanding in the fall.

“Our focus is on quality over quantity, therefore, it is an exclusive program, and the acceptance rate will vary.”

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