POLITICS

NYT Magazine Delivers Must-Read On The GOP's Digital Divide, 2012 Failures

02/14/2013 12:36 pm ET | Updated Sep 08, 2015

Much has been written about the woeful campaign run by Mitt Romney and the now-widely lambasted gaggle of ancient consultants who've grifted and grafted the GOP into near "obsolescence," but Robert Draper's exegesis on the subject -- for The New York Times magazine this week -- is the Banana Joe of the genre, stacked to the rafters with anecdotes and commentary from the younger, more modern, tech-savvy Republicans who essentially got shut out of the show by a moth-eaten old guard in 2012.

It was not long after the election that elder statesmen of the G.O.P. began offering assurances that all would soon be right. But younger Republicans were not buying it. On Dec. 6, Moffatt addressed an audience of party digital specialists at the R.N.C.’s Capitol Hill Club. Moffatt spoke confidently about how, among other things, the Romney digital team had pretty much all the same tools the Obama campaign possessed. Bret Jacobson was shocked when he read about Moffatt’s claim the next day. “That’s like saying, ‘This Potemkin village will bring us all prosperity!’” Jacobson told me. “There’s something to be said for putting on a happy face — except when it makes you sound like Baghdad Bob.”

A few days after the Moffatt gathering, the R.N.C.’s chairman, Reince Priebus, announced that the committee would conduct a wide-ranging investigation — called the Growth and Opportunity Project — into the ways the party was going astray. To guide the investigation were familiar names, like the former Bush White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, the longtime Florida operative Sally Bradshaw and the R.N.C. veteran Henry Barbour. Erik Telford, the 28-year-old founder of the RightOnline bloggers’ convention, told me that he found himself wondering aloud: “Do you want an aggressive investigation from people who’ve built their careers on asking skeptical questions? Or do you want a report from people who are symptomatic of what’s gone wrong?”

"Moffatt" refers to Zac Moffatt, who ran a digital firm called Targeted Victory that comes off in the piece as clueless, cosseted, and hopelessly outgunned by the Obama campaign's bleeding-edge digital campaign apparatus. On the other side of the divide are reality-facing GOP pollster Kristen Soltis Anderson (whose focus groups of obtainable voters told her that they'd vote for Republicans if they'd do things like, “Don’t be so right wing!") and Patrick Ruffini (a Peyton Manning-level political strategist who, like Peyton's dad, has been stuck playing for the political equivalent of 1970's Saints). Joining them are the folks at Red Edge, a digital consultancy shop that spent all of 2012 warning Republicans they were screwing up and getting the Cassandra treatment in return, who now enjoy twisting the knife in the sides of those that spurned them.

Along the way, David Plouffe shows up, itching to take on the 2004 team that re-elected George W. Bush. (Plouffe: "You know how in fantasy baseball you imagine putting up your team against the 1927 Yankees?") And, speaking of baseball, we also learn that when Ken Mehlman (presented here as the real brains behind Bush's re-election) ran the RNC, he insisted that his staff read "Moneyball." That's relevant to our interests because it was "Moneyball's" Bill James who HuffPost's own Sam Stein reached out to in June of last year for his advice on taking on well-funded super PACs. (Perhaps, in the case of Karl Rove's American Crossroads, his advice should be amended to, "Show up and wait for them to fail, miserably.")

At any rate, Draper's whole piece is a gem, but this throwaway line alone achieves iconic status in the annals of Beltway journalism:

Upon graduating from college, [Kristen Soltis Anderson] became the lead singer of the Frustrations, a rock-ska group that folded, as only a D.C.-based band could, when one member decided to attend law school and another needed more time to study for the bar exam.

Robert Draper is deep inside this culture. Best in show, sir!

GO READ THE WHOLE THING:
Can the Republicans be Saved From Obsolescence? [NY Times Magazine]

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