The political world has been abuzz with speculation about the Senate races and whether the Republicans will take over majority of the Upper House. While this was happening, I spent my time finding out what was really afoot within the Republican world.
This all started when I had the opportunity to see a presentation by Andy Barkett, the Republican National Committee’s (RNC) first Chief Technology Officer. What I was listening to piqued my interest. It is as if the RNC had finally come alive. I wrote a column about the challenges facing the party during the turmoil after the 2012 election and the election of Reince Preibus as the Chairman of the RNC, reinstalling Mr. Preibus as the head of the party. Having actually worked on the past four presidential elections, I have seen first-hand the capabilities of the party and what was needed to win. In that column, I advocated a vertically-integrated system that used the assets of the RNC to aid in the election of offices down to the local sheriff with information flowing back up to the national party. This seemed to be what I was hearing from Barkett, but I wanted to explore the status of the party’s information capabilities more.
That brought me to an interview with Chuck Defeo, the Chief Digital Officer and Deputy Chief of Staff of the RNC. Defeo, a Political Science graduate of the University of Missouri-Kansas City, somewhat fell into being a tech guy. He started working for then-Senator John Ashcroft in 1996, when all those late nights of computer geeking led him to organizing the computer side of the Senator’s operations. Defeo used that as a springboard to other political tech gigs, which then landed him as the person who organized the digital efforts for the 2004 Bush reelection campaign. Those were the days when the Republicans were ahead in the organizing game. Since then, the Obama campaigns have left the Republicans behind in their efforts to turn out voters, raise money and win elections.
So what did Defeo find when he came on board last July? Surprisingly, he found a very positive attitude -- a willingness to change and improve with the goal of helping Republican candidates win in 2014, thus building toward 2016.