Matt Rhoades, Joe Pounder and Tim Miller are out to bring their party's research infrastructure into the digital age.
Having been schooled by the 2012 cycle, these strategists are now shopping their services to campaigns, committees and PACs. Their pitch is simple: We’re not your father’s opposition research firm.
“You have to have a way to translate the field research -- the going out to the courthouse and, metaphorically speaking, digging through the trash -- into the news cycle in a way that’s effective,” Miller tells C&E.
“Where the disconnect has been in the past is, you have all these documents from the courthouse and you send them across the country to the communications director who doesn’t have experience navigating them and some things get lost in translation.”
Their new firm, called America Rising, launched shortly after the release of the Republican National Committee’s campaign strategy reform blueprint. The document was seen by some as the party’s clarion call for more opposition research, particularly campaign trackers.
“Well-funded conservative groups should seek to hire activists to track Democrat incumbents and candidates with video cameras constantly recording their every movement, utterance, and action,” the 100-page RNC report stated. “Within the applicable legal constraints, we need to create our own video content, bank it, and release it when it suits our candidates' needs.”
Miller, who was former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman’s spokesman during his 2012 run for the GOP presidential nomination, said the Republican side is playing catch up on everything from tracking to digital rapid response.
“There’s no doubt that the Democrats are ahead of us, just from the standpoint of manpower, on candidate tracking and also having a nose for how you take that video and how you use it,” he says. “The problem on our side was not that we weren’t doing it. It was a patchwork, ad hoc effort.”
America Rising hopes to unify that effort. It plans to start tracking Democratic House, Senate and potential presidential candidates -- think Newark Mayor Cory Booker or Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley -- and then sell subscriptions to its library to GOP groups and campaigns. To do amass the video, they’re going to hire a “substantial staff” that will do work in the field, according to Miller.
“What we’re going to do really well is candidate tracking, candidate research and translating that information online into digital rapid response products,” he says.
The material that's gathered won't go into one of those infamous campaign binders. Instead it will be available to clients on cloud computing, says Miller, “so that when news happens and that impacts something that a candidate or a group has done in the past, we can update that chapter or that section of the research that we’ve done in real time and clients can see it.”
It’s all about integration, he says. Put all the campaign's communications "under one roof so that the people who are in charge of the digital rapid response are in the same room, communicating with the people who are doing the research and the folks who are talking to the press.
"That is a very clear mission."