Republican National Committee steps up ground game with Indiana Senate seat in play

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The Republican National Committee is upping its presence in Indiana in an effort to win back the U.S. Senate seat now held by Democrat Joe Donnelly.

The race is considered one of the most competitive in the country, and both national parties are focusing on the contest. So far, though, Republicans have invested earlier and more directly in the effort.

Michael Joyce, Indiana spokesman for the RNC, said the group put boots on the ground in Indiana last July, and now has about a dozen staffers throughout the state.

They stayed out of the Senate primary race between U.S. Reps. Luke Messer and Todd Rokita, and former state Rep. Mike Braun, but they did start contacting voters to talk generally about the race and voting for the eventual Republican nominee. 

Since July, the RNC staffers have knocked on 21,000 doors and made 84,000 phone calls. And now that the general election race is set between Braun and  Donnelly, those efforts are expected to increase.

“We hit the ground running as soon as we got here,” Joyce said. “We want to really show that our ground game is no joke.”

The RNC has staff in about two dozen states for the 2018 midterm elections, and the last time it had this kind of presence in Indiana was in 2010, which was the midterm election during former President Barack Obama’s first term.

“This is unprecedented for us to have such a big footprint in the state,” Joyce said. “Indiana is clearly one of the highest priorities.”

Joyce said the RNC has invested more than $200 million nationwide into improving its data efforts as well as how the party reaches voters and how it recruits and trains volunteers. One strategy Republicans have already found to be successful is training volunteers to then go and recruit more volunteers, preferably in an area they’re familiar with so they’re reaching people they already know.

“We’re engaging and training new people and then sending them out into the field right after we train them,” Joyce said.

The RNC has also been working with the Indiana Republican Party and has started coordinating with Braun’s campaign.

The national party has an office in Indianapolis, and it also has regional field directors in Lafayette, South Bend, Fort Wayne, Fishers and Pendleton.

Joyce said by late June, the party will have added more people.

Meanwhile, the Democratic National Committee is not opening a separate office but is providing support to the Indiana Democratic Party.

Indiana Democratic Party Spokesman Phil Johnson said the national party gave the state funding to hire a digital organizer, and that person is set to start before the end of the month.

He said the DNC is “definitely committed” to Indiana, but he wasn’t sure what it would end up investing in the state.

“It’s definitely going to be an ongoing investment,” Johnson said. “We expect to see more.”

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