Harris Media

The GOP’s Talent Gap

Some doubt that the GOP’s leadership truly understands the breadth and depth of the challenge before the party. Vincent Harris, a well-known GOP digital strategist, points to last year’s Virginia gubernatorial election between Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Ken Cuccinelli as evidence. While McAuliffe invested heavily in analytics and fieldwork, Cuccinelli’s effort looked an awful lot like campaigns of the past. His investment in data, analytics, and voter-targeting paled in comparison to McAuliffe’s. In the consultant’s estimation, it’s a sign that many of the Republicans running major campaigns still don’t get it.

“I think the Republican Party is doing a lot of talk,” Harris said. “But without a doubt, it has definitely not moved to where Democrats are.”

Other explanations are myriad. A few GOP consultants say the party’s conservative philosophy hinders the sharing of its best ideas—both with other Republican campaigns and within individual campaigns themselves. “We are so individualistic on the Republican side, both in our philosophy and policy,” Harris said. “It definitely bleeds over into how we are managing and structuring campaigns. And we have to break that.”

Even the party’s agenda can get in the way. As Robert Draper outlined in The New York Times Magazine in February, the party’s conservatism on cultural issues might prevent it from recruiting the young operatives it needs from Silicon Valley and other places. The problems with these tech-savvy youths mirror the GOP’s problem with young voters in general who might sympathize with the party’s fiscal conservatism. As Draper wrote, the GOP’s opposition to gay marriage and abortion rights alienates those would-be operatives. The talent pools the GOP must tap into, then, are running dry.

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