RNC Looks To Facebook For Political Edge

By: CNN Posted By Doug Brown
By: CNN Posted By Doug Brown

Scottsdale, Arizona (CNN) – Tapping into the online social networks of voters is a top priority for the digital strategists working for President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney - and no site offers a larger trove of personal data than Facebook.

Now the Republican National Committee is getting into the social media game.

The party organization, which has the mammoth task of turning out Republican voters in every battleground state this November, is preparing to launch a new Facebook tool that lets users share news, talking points and the latest updates about the presidential campaign with their friends.

But the “GOP Social Victory Center,” which has been in development for almost a year and will be released next week, lets Republicans go far beyond just clicking “like” on a story about Joe Biden’s most recent gaffe or the latest veepstakes chatter.

Republicans using the application will be able do the work usually reserved for campaign offices simply by logging into Facebook from their personal computers, party officials told CNN in a briefing about the new technology at this week’s RNC meeting in Arizona.

“We will be finding people and engaging them and letting them do the things that can elect a president, or members of the House or Senate, without actually having to walk into a victory center,” RNC Political Director Rick Wiley said. “That was an untapped resource for us.”

People who sign up for the application will be able to share news pumped directly into their profiles from the RNC’s communications office in Washington.

They can fill out and submit absentee ballot applications, see early voting deadlines, donate to the party or inform their friends about upcoming campaign events using Eventbrite – all while never leaving Facebook.

And simply by clicking a button, a user’s phone will ring and automatically re-connect them, via RNC headquarters, to targeted voters in key states.

“It’s erasing the geographic boundaries,” Wiley told CNN. “Just because you don’t live in a battleground state doesn’t mean you can’t help defeat this president.”

Crucially, though, the application is also designed to help the RNC flesh out their carefully-maintained voter files by mining the basic personal information of every Facebooker using the application, allowing GOP researchers to curate the interests and personal preferences of thousands upon thousands of voters.

When a user “authorizes” the RNC app - you have to authorize Spotify to tap into your Facebook account before listening to Lady Gaga or Radiohead, for instance - the party is able to access the user’s email address, phone number, religion and gender along with the “friends” in his or her social network.

That’s extraordinarily valuable information for political operatives eager to tailor specific messages to targeted voters.

“The data we are going to get, it’s going to be much better than we ever had in the past,” said RNC spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski.

The new application is part of a larger effort by Republicans to catch up with the Obama campaign’s impressive digital footprint and advanced data collection efforts.

To that end, the RNC will begin moving digital directors into 12 battleground states beginning in June.

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