RNC Pushes to Incorporate Trump Voters Into GOP's Base

RNC Pushes to Incorporate Trump Voters Into GOP's Base
Mark Mulligan/Houston Chronicle via AP
RNC Pushes to Incorporate Trump Voters Into GOP's Base
Mark Mulligan/Houston Chronicle via AP
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One of the big questions surrounding this election has been whether President Trump can transfer his stunning 2016 success into victory for his party in the more challenging environment of a midterm election. Many Trump voters were first-time Republican voters -- some even first-time voters in decades -- something the Republican National Committee realized early in the 2018 cycle. The trick is keeping them on board when Trump himself isn’t on the ballot.

To do so, GOP officials are trying to tap into the president’s unorthodox energy on the campaign trail at “Make America Great Again” rallies and use that to bolster traditional get-out-the-vote efforts.

In Texas, for example, Trump’s massive rally last week had people standing in line over a day in advance to ensure they would get in. RNC officials, desperate to blunt the insurgent senatorial candidacy of rising Democratic star Beto O’Rourke, gathered the names of those Trumpsters at the Houston rally and sent everyone a text reminding them to vote for O’Rourke’s opponent: incumbent Republican Sen. Ted Cruz.

“The president’s rallies are motivating people who came out to vote specifically for him in 2016 to come out again and vote for the entire Republican ticket,” said RNC spokeswoman Cassie Smedile. “While texting has become a popular tool in politics, generally, the rallies give us the unique ability to ask our core supporters to take an action, in this case vote, at the exact moment they are most likely to do it.”

Of those contacted, which includes everyone who RSVP’d to the rally, 16,000 clicked on the link sent via the text. The link took them to the GOP’s website with voting location and absentee ballot request information. The RNC has been using this texting system all through the election cycle to provide information and to stay in contact.

Democrats also use this contact method -- and also use the polarizing president to motivate their liberal base. But Milking the MAGA rallies gives GOP officials a way of countering the Democrats’ energy, which looks – as do most midterms -- like a “base” election.

“Passion for President Trump’s patriotic messages at rallies and well-organized follow-up with supporters, such as GOTV text messages, are producing tremendous results for early voting in support of GOP candidates,” according to a Trump campaign spokesperson. “Clearly, enthusiasm for the president remains strong after rallies [and] that’s making a major difference in the midterms.”

In several states, early voting numbers in the top 15 counties surpassed their 2014 totals in just the first few days, according to the Houston Chronicle. But it remains unclear which party those figures will benefit.

Derek Ryan, an analyst in Texas who has been tracking early voting, says that among the 15 largest counties in the state Republicans do have an advantage — based on primary voting history — but he says 38 percent of voters in these areas also don’t have any previous primary voting history, making predictions difficult.

“I do, however, feel like the data shows that voters along the entire political spectrum are energized and voting this cycle,” Ryan said.

Texas’ Senate race has also become among the most nationalized this cycle and the money shows it. The Cruz-O’Rourke matchup is now the most expensive Senate contest in history, with combined fundraising from both candidates topping $100 million, according to the latest filings.

Whether the RNC system yields results will not be answered until next week, but if successful, the party may have the most highly prized voter database since the rise of the Obama coalition a decade ago — one that will likely be sought after as political eyes turn to 2020 on Nov. 7.

Sally Persons is RealClearPolitics' White House correspondent.

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