GOP targets voter groups that backed Obama in 2008April 18, 2012
George P. Bush hopes dissatisfaction with the Obama White House will help him draw young professionals to become donors and activists in the Republican Party.
The grandson of former president George H.W. Bush and son of former Florida governor Jeb Bush, the younger Bush is setting up chapters of his Texas-based Maverick PAC in several key swing states to try to mobilize young Republicans.
Bush’s group is one of several Republican efforts underway to try to peel away parts of the coalition that helped Barack Obama win the presidency in 2008 and organizers pledge each is bigger and more thorough than in years past.
Women, Hispanics and young voters are among the demographic groups where Obama beat Sen. John McCain last cycle and areas where many Republicans believe they can pull disaffected voters into their camp come November.
The Obama campaign has no intention of ceding those groups that helped it win the White House, and have a number of micro-targeting operations of its own. The Obama campaign website has separate pages for women, youth, “Jewish Americans,” and more.
But with an uncertain economic environment and nearly seven months of campaigning to go, Republicans are convinced that with time, money and boots on the ground, this election could be different.
Bush and Jay Zeidman, a former staffer in the George W. Bush administration, began MavPAC several years ago but this year are poised to spend more than $1 million to “go out and target younger Americans and get them engaged in politics.”
MavPAC is now opening chapters in traditionally Republican states that Obama carried, such as North Carolina, Virginia and Indiana.
The group caters to individuals who are out of college, want to be politically involved but are not yet ready to write huge checks to support candidates.
Bush acknowledged that Obama won younger voters across all demographic lines in 2008, in part through vigorous outreach, and as a result “that is part of our goal, to mitigate that margin.”
“For the majority of our members this is the first time they have participated financially in the political process,” Zeidman said.
“Young people need to be at least at the table and be part of the debate because otherwise these huge, looming questions with respect to the $17 trillion debt are going to be decided by people that don’t have as much of a stake in it as we do,” Bush said.
While not affiliated with any other Republican organizations, the MavPAC effort mirrors strategies taking place on a larger scale.
Last week, the Republican National Committee and the campaign of likely GOP nominee Mitt Romney launched a full court press to convince female voters that the Obama administration has been bad for women.
The reason: several recent polls, including a CNN poll released Monday, have shown Romney significantly trailing Obama among female voters.
On Monday the RNC made it clear Hispanics will also be a focal point of its 2012 campaign.
“We are going to engage Hispanics and Latinos like we’ve never done before,” said RNC Chairman Reince Preibus in a conference call with reporters. The RNC is placing on-the-ground Hispanic outreach coordinators in six battleground states — Florida, Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico, Virginia and North Carolina — to promote the Republican economic agenda in particular.
The conference call occurred the day after NBC reported Romney had been overheard at a Florida fundraising event saying “We have to get Hispanic voters to vote for our party.”
The Obama campaign on Wednesday rolled out a major Hispanic outreach effort of its own.
The commitment of resources to less traditional Republican voters may not pay dividends right away, said Scott Keeter, director of survey research at the Pew Research Center. He warned that even if they are mobilized by one party they still may vote for another.
Keeter said Democrats should not take young and Latino voters for granted.
“The (recession) has hit both of these groups very hard,” he said.
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