‘Nobody’s home,” says Michael Fields, the 28-year-old state director of the Colorado chapter of Americans for Prosperity. On this sunny Saturday morning in mid-July, we’re walking through a residential neighborhood in Greenwood Village, a wealthy suburb in Arapahoe County. It’s the perfect day for a hike near the mountains or a dip in the pool, which may explain why Fields is greeted with silence at nearly every door he knocks on.
Undeterred, he and two other AFP activists navigate the streets with Google Maps, hoping to find one person willing to take the brief survey queued on their iPads. Every unanswered door receives a hanging flyer and input into an iPad: “Not home.” On the rare occasion a voter does emerge to talk, the activists can only get about two questions off: Do you support Obamacare? And do you support the state’s taxpayer bill of rights provision that requires voter approval for every state and local tax hike? The answers are punched into the system, too. Then it’s back to the map to find the next house.
Meanwhile, at a nearby field office, other volunteers are calling potential survey-takers on the phone, with about the same success rates as those out in the streets. It’s common to have someone hang up before the volunteer can even say her name. Elderly folks on the other end think the callers are trying to sell them something. One volunteer ends the last of several short calls in a row with an apology and a promise to take the caller off AFP’s list. None of it’s glamorous, but all this political grunt work in the middle of 2015, AFP officials say, is preparing the organization and its 35 state chapters for their biggest battle yet: 2016.
Americans for Prosperity is the flagship political organization of libertarian billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch. AFP spent $122 million in 2012, more than in its eight previous years of existence combined, and $77 million in the 2014 midterm elections, a lot of it on TV advertising. The New York Times reported in January that the Koch brothers told their large network of fellow donors they plan to raise and spend nearly $900 million on political advocacy during the 2016 election cycle. While AFP won’t disclose their 2016 budget, it’s likely to be a sizable chunk of that $900 million.
After being outgunned by President Obama’s Organizing for America (OFA) and other left-wing political action committees in the run-up to the 2012 election, conservative groups struggled to figure out how to reform their campaign operations for 2014 and beyond. Some, like the Chamber of Commerce, focused on backing higher-quality Senate candidates and played a role in GOP primaries. The Republican National Committee conducted a lengthy “autopsy” of the 2012 loss that concluded the party needed to rebrand itself, revamp its messaging, and restructure its data operation. For AFP, which rose to prominence as a sort of institutional manifestation of the Tea Party movement, success in 2016 means investing heavily in building permanent grassroots operations in battleground states. Which, officials say, is exactly what they’ve been doing.
In swing states like Colorado, there’s already evidence of investment. AFP has five field offices, three in the Denver area and one each in Colorado Springs and Fort Collins. Every activist, down to the brand-new volunteer, is armed with a cheap flip-phone and an iPad loaded with the Koch-funded voter database platform i360. (Activists can also make phone calls from their own homes, on their own devices.) Volunteers can expect free food and beverages between canvassing trips, as well as AFP-branded hats, T-shirts, and other swag. But AFP is also beefing up personnel. In addition to Fields, the state director, Colorado’s chapter has more than 20 full-time staff members, including a deputy state director and 7 field directors in different regions of the state, along with several part-time staffers and an ever-growing pool of volunteers.
What are all these people doing, more than a year before the 2016 election? Lots of phone calls and door-to-door canvassing to target a curated list of “persuadables”—not hardcore Republicans or Democrats but people who might vote and might be willing to support policies and candidates in line with the group’s small-government, pro-free-market philosophy. This year, at least, AFP’s activism focuses on local issues, particularly education. In Jefferson County, the second-largest school district in the state, recall petitions for three conservative school-board members are gathering steam. AFP activists there are working to educate voters about the benefits of school-choice reforms passed by the board, and its door-to-door canvassers and phone bankers ask specific survey questions about those reforms.
The Republican National Committee has come out against the Iran nuclear deal, which it labels as part of the "Clinton-Obama foreign policy." The RNC makes their case in a 33-second web video which will be released later today:
The ad uses audio from Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. At the end of the short spot, the screen text reads, "Clinton-Obama foreign policy: Bad deals, a nuclear Iran. Too dangerous for America."
In this week's edition of the boss's email newsletter -- Kristol Clear -- readers are asked to rank their top three picks for the GOP's 2016 presidential nominee. The boss writes:
With Jeb Bush's entry into the race, it's a good time to get an update on what you think of the Republican presidential race. You know the drill: As of now, who are your first, second, and third choices among these declared and likely-to-declare candidates? ...
In a 41-second video that's set to be released later this morning, the Republican National Committee is using a populist message to hit Hillary Clinton for "hypocrisy."
The video mainly features a snippet from a speech Clinton delivered on Wednesday, May 27, at the South Carolina Democratic Women's Council. "Because we're going to have to stand up to the people who want to keep the deck stacked in favor of those at the top. We're going to have to fight to make sure that the success of our country is shared across the economy," Clinton says in the RNC ad.
The Republican National Committee is kicking off a paid online ad campaign just ahead of Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign announcement. Clinton is expected to make the much anticipated move as early as this weekend.
The ad campaign features this ad, called "Stop Hillary," and is meant to target independent and swing voters:
The Republican National Committee has released this web video, hitting the White House, the State Department, and the Clinton campaign for avoiding questions related to Hillary Clinton's exclusive use of private email to conduct official business:
Democrats have not had to answer for the actions of Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz (who offered to change a policy position in exchange for not being criticized, and threatened to paint President Obama as anti-Semitic and anti-women). Or for the Bill, Hillary, and Chelsea Clinton Foundation (which accepts foreign donations). Or for Joe Biden (who said last week he knows Somalis because "there’s an awful lot driving cabs").
The Republican National Committee responds to President Obama's executive amnesty with this video:
The RNC says in a statement, “President Obama’s politically motivated executive order is unprecedented,” said Chairman Priebus. “If he believed that his actions were urgent and that he had the Constitutional authority all along, why didn’t he think so for the last six years of his presidency?”
The RNC’s Site Selection Committee has recommended Cleveland, Ohio, as the host city of the 2016 Republican National Convention. Cleveland last held a national political convention in 1936, when Kansas governor Alfred Landon defeated Senator William Borah of Idaho for the Republican presidential nomination.
The Republican National Committee is out with this new video showing that President Obama is mad:
The video is titled, "Obama Is So Mad."
RNC press secretary Kirsten Kukowski writes in an email to reporters, "Not only does Obama learn about scandals in the news, he’s also been “mad as hell” before – IRS, ObamaCare, GSA wasteful spending, Fast and Furious, Secret Service…"
THE WEEKLY STANDARD Podcast with executive editor Fred Barnes on the republicans' efforts to win big in 2014, and whether the Tea Party will play the role of spoiler as republicans hope to take back the Senate.