Audra Shay of Louisiana has been touring the country for seven months, drumming up support for her campaign to become chairwoman of the Young Republican National Federation, an organization that consists of 10,000 members nationwide.
“The country wasn’t going where I think it should be going,” she said, so she entered the race to try and get YRNF, which limits its membership to Republicans aged 18-40, “back to its original platform.”
For her, that means a renewed adherence to the principles of national defense, school choice, limited government, lower taxes and conservative social values.
Shay differs little in principle with her only competitor in the YRNF Chairman race, Rachel Hoff, who resides in Washington, D.C. But these principles aren't what Hoff emphasizes.
"The YRNF is a grassroots political organization, and our strength is our members and member states," said Hoff.
In other words, Hoff is concentrating on the politics rather than the policy. It's a fine line in a race filled with predictable political rhetoric like "taking the YRNF to the next level" and "working to revitalize the GOP from the ground up"— and one that probably won't attract too much attention, given YRNF's small size and relative influence.
But perhaps it should. The race involves a key growth constituency for the GOP — young people — and the two candidates have come to represent a microcosm of the divisions being worked out in the Republican Party as a whole.
Hoff, 26, is focused on “engaging more of our generation” and “organizing the grassroots to help Republicans win elections again." That focus seems to be on target with the official mission of the YRNF, which calls itself the "premier Republican grassroots organization in the nation" focused on "recruiting, training and mobilizing people" towards the cause.
"I am a Republican, to the core, because I believe in the conservative principles that built this Party and have stood the test of time," she said. But Hoff understands that "it is going to take a broad coalition of diverse Americans who believe in our principles to take this Party where it needs to go."
Hoff wants to increase the GOP's "influence, engagement and relevance" to young people, by focusing on the GOP's weak spots. That includes pitching a larger tent and focusing on technology. She's "weaponized" Facebook, Twitter, and web videos along with sites such as YRNetwork.com and ThisIsMyParty.org to increase young Republicans’ online presence and to catch those who aren't yet politically active.