Romney campaign chief to lead new GOP research group
March 21st, 2013
02:02 PM ET
10 years ago

Romney campaign chief to lead new GOP research group

(CNN) – Post-mortems written after the 2012 campaign focused on a variety of Republican shortcomings: underwhelming television ads, an outdated voter contact model, and a message that was out-of-step with the changing face of America.

Overlooked in the aftermath of Mitt Romney's loss, however, was the fact that Democrats throttled Republicans in the critical practice of opposition research - the age-old tactic of gathering negative information about one's opponent and pushing it into public view through the press or through paid media.

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The Obama campaign aggressively peddled damaging stories about Romney to reporters and ran an arsenal of negative TV ads early in the campaign that crippled the GOP nominee well before the fall election sprint.

But the Democrats' research efforts were buttressed by American Bridge 21st Century, a new outside group in 2012 that raised $17 million for the sole purpose of gathering dossiers on Republican candidates and tracking their every move throughout the campaign.

At its height during the campaign, American Bridge boasted 60 full-time staffers, including 20 trackers who trailed GOP candidates full-time with video cameras.

Republicans had nothing comparable on their side, other than the traditional research operations managed by the Republican National Committee and the Romney campaign.

American Bridge was just one of many voices in the Democratic onslaught against Romney, but Republican operatives took special note of their ability to scramble messaging in Senate and House races, causing fits for GOP candidates in key battleground states and wounding the party's ability to appeal to women and minority voters.

It was American Bridge media monitors who flagged Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin's comments about "legitimate rape" on a local television program, and it was an American Bridge tracker who caught Iowa Rep. Steve King on video comparing illegal immigrants to dogs.

Now, in the wake of an RNC report calling on the party to modernize its hobbled and outdated infrastructure, three Republicans are stepping into the research void to launch a conservative counterweight to American Bridge.

The new GOP research outfit is called "America Rising," and it will be helmed by Romney's former campaign manager Matt Rhoades, who earned his stripes in politics as an opposition research specialist at the RNC.

Rhoades will be joined in the venture by two of Washington's leading young media strategists, Tim Miller and Joe Pounder, both of whom recently left the RNC's communications shop.

The organization plans to immediately begin training its sights on potential 2016 Democratic presidential candidates like Hillary Clinton, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, along with focusing on Senate, House and gubernatorial candidates in the near term.

"We plan to start this enterprise because so many Republicans seem to agree that there is a need on our side of the aisle for an entity that is focused on solely holding Democrats accountable for their actions and records using research, candidate tracking, rapid response and digital tools," Rhoades told CNN in a statement.

The RNC's so-called "autopsy" report released last week, which studied the party's failings during last year's campaign, called for a "well-funded" research and video tracking organization that "does nothing but post inappropriate Democrat utterances and act as a clearinghouse for information on Democrats."

America Rising, which bills itself as "a permanent research infrastructure" for the Republican Party and conservative organizations, would seem to fill that space.

The group is promising a more sophisticated online infrastructure than American Bridge or any other research entity in politics, though the group did not provide details on what that may look like.

Rhoades, Miller and Pounder are also hoping to use America Rising as a hub to develop best practices for information-sharing among Republican groups and committees. Part of their mission includes training up a farm team of younger communication strategists who are fluent in new media and rapid response tactics.

The group plans to organize in two parts. As a super PAC, it will focus on digital campaigns and placing negative stories about Democrats in the news media. It does not plan to run television ads.

A separate wing of the group will incorporate as a limited liability company (LLC), which can coordinate directly with campaigns and political committees by sharing video and resources. On the legal side, the group is being advised by Republican super-lawyer Ben Ginsberg.

As for the RNC, which has traditionally served as the party's national clearinghouse for opposition research, spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski said the committee is "excited about the efforts of groups like America Rising that will further strengthen the future of the Republican Party."

She also said the RNC is expanding its research teams for the 2014 and 2016 cycles.

Filed under: 2012 • 2014 • 2016 • Mitt Romney • Republicans
soundoff (38 Responses)
  1. Prosperid

    Speaking of accountability, does the Strategic Allied Consulting organization ring a bell. A RNC funded voter fraud machine that had to be dealt with because they were trashing Democratic voter forms. (Know the difference about comparing to ACORN, a separate organization....which was not funded by the DNC and wasn't doing half the dirt the
    RNC got caught doing in 2012.) By the way, based on the CPAC performances, it seems that the GOP are still CLUELESS on the groups it need ...Minorities, women, young people, & gay rights.

    March 21, 2013 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  2. Patrick in Wisconsin

    freedom, if you are still whining about Bengazi and the deficit, you need to look at the facts. How many died in Bengazi? Four, or about as many soldiers die in Afghanistan every two or three days. How many died on 9-11, more than 3,000. I'm not saying we prosecute George W. Bush for letting that happen, but saying Obama should face charges for a disaster literally almost one hundred times smaller is ridiculous.

    March 21, 2013 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  3. freedom


    We will never become socialist loving – freedom hating Americans – like this president. NOT change we beleive in. People of this country will soon see the destruction this administration is causing, and welcome freedom back in their lives once again.

    March 21, 2013 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  4. Rudy NYC

    freedom wrote:

    The ultimate accountability was Nixon's impeachment. And he resigned. His failings are nothing compared to this administration's negligence in Benghazi, and the lies this president blatantly tells continuously. You are not holding this president accountable.
    Allow me to point out the obvious by refreshing your memory. Democrats did not go after Bush or Bush administration officials for their roles in the lead up to the Iraq War. Democrats are still running the show, which means that they can change their minds. So, had you thought your argument through to its' logical conclusion, then you should have seen just the precarious position that your argument puts your side in.

    March 21, 2013 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  5. ThinkAgain

    @freedom: "His failings are nothing compared to this administration's negligence in Benghazi ..."

    Perhaps you should direct your ire to your Republican brethren who voted to reduce embassy security funding to less than the amount requested by the Obama Administration.

    And while you're thinking about that, ask yourself: Why would President Obama "let" Americans die so close to the presidential election? If he had indeed had the power of life and death (which you so obviously believe he did), wouldn't it have been to his advantage for these Americans to die?

    March 21, 2013 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  6. ThinkAgain

    @Tea Party Thomas: "The only reason the Republicans lost the presidency in the last election was they didn't run a true conservative for the office."

    Bwah hah hah hah ha! Good one!

    March 21, 2013 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  7. Joe P

    Don't think it was much of a challenge to find the dirt on Romney; just listening to his lies was good enough for most people. Any more excuses as to why he lost?

    March 21, 2013 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  8. Really

    Freedom, Obama has submitted a budget for every fiscal year he has been President. You can view them at the Government Printing Office website. There is no law stating it must be a balanced budget, and even if there was exceptions would be made for times of war or recession. This country has not had a balanced budget since the 1950's Funny, I don't remember the calls from the right for "accountability" during the last administraton. You accuse the President of lying, and you don't even know the facts.

    March 21, 2013 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  9. freedom

    @Rudy NYC

    My argument is sound. You just don't agree with it.


    No whining here – just facts. 9/11 was the game changer – Bush did what he deemed to be right to protect our homeland – whether you agree with it or not. Obama did NOTHING the night of the Benghazi attacks – he let those men get tortured and murdered on the anniverseray of 9/11. Can't compare the two.

    March 21, 2013 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  10. Rudy NYC

    freedom wrote:

    We will never become socialist loving – freedom hating Americans – like this president. NOT change we beleive in. People of this country will soon see the destruction this administration is causing, and welcome freedom back in their lives once again.
    Freedom to do as you please, but at someone else's expense isnt' freedom. It's called oppression.

    March 21, 2013 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  11. ThinkAgain

    @freedom: "We already have the infamous "what difference does it make!!" that reverberated around the world..."

    Here's what Sec. Clinton actually said in response to Sen. Johnson (R-Wis) – something you don't know because you only watch Fox and listen to the likes of Limbaugh. Please tell me again what is wrong with her call to figure out what went wrong so that it never happens again?

    "With all due respect, the fact is we had four dead Americans. Was it because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk last night who decided to kill some Americans? What difference at this point does it make? It is our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again, Senator."

    March 21, 2013 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |

    Research those 6 million Republican voters who sat at home on Nov 6. The radical GOBP tea potty NEVER bring them up.

    March 21, 2013 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  13. rs

    "We will never become socialist loving – freedom hating Americans ..."
    As long as one accept what Republican "freedoms" are:being forced to bear your rapists' child; dying from easily preventable disease or basic medical conditions; to live in poverty owing to the lack of workers' rights; to have your right to vote taken away; to have one's civil rights abridged; not getting a decent public education; living in a polluted environment, and on and all.
    Republicans are not the party of freedom any more than they are pro-life. They are simply self-centered delusionals.

    March 21, 2013 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
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