The Republican Party Wants To Be Your Friend On Facebook

Republicans update their data and their social strategy as the election approaches.

The Republican National Committee is on the verge of a broad technical upgrade aimed at restoring the technical edge it held during the Bush years and at bringing the GOP into the social media era, Republican sources told BuzzFeed.

Starting next week, the party will roll out an upgraded, and possibly renamed, version of Voter Vault, the giant, centralized file of data about voters that is centralized by the national party and used by Republican campaigns around the country, according to party officials and committee members. The party is also developing a set of “Social Victory” applications to integrate political campaigns deeper into voters’ lives on the social web.

“After six year of a much-needed technology upgrades, we have made some tremendous enhancements to Voter Vault,” Republican National Committee Spokesman Sean Spicer told BuzzFeed. “We are excited that each of our state parties is going to be abel to enjoy the benefits of these upgrades.”

Spicer declined to discuss the details of the upgrades to Voter Vault, but sources said the move involve vastly expanding the amount and types of data that can be linked to more traditional information like voters’ names, addresses, and phone numbers. The use of consumer information in targeting has expanded dramatically in recent years, and was used widely by candidate Barack Obama’s campaign in 2008, as well as by Mitt Romney’s primary campaign this year.

The RNC announced this week that it had “fully-funded” its $21 million “Presidential Trust,” to be chaired by Rep. Paul Ryan, which can spend unlimited amounts independently of the presidential campaign and is expected to make extensive use of the new data, according to a member of the RNC.

The data is also heavily used by state parties, and the timing of the transition drew complaints from Texas Republican Party Chairman Steve Munisteri, two Republican sources said, whose primary is on May 29. A spokesman for the Texas Republican Party declined to comment on the contract. But a national GOP source said state parties will have the alternative of switching to the upgraded system whenever they want, and the Voter Vault will not at any point switch off, and other state party officials said they were pleased with the shift.

“We had the best Voter Vault in ‘04 with Rove,” said one committee member. “Obama carried it to the Nth degree, and now Reince Priebus is getting us back up to speed.”

The Voter Vault upgrade is being managed by a vendor, FLS Connect, that was founded by RNC Chief-of-Staff Jeff Larson, producing some grumbling in Republican circles. But GOP officials and press reports say Larson no longer has any stake in the company.

The RNC has, meanwhile, intensified its focus on social media, an area in which it had falled behind the Democrats. It has been accumulating thousands of Facebook “likes” a week to its Facebook page, and has narrowed the gap with the Democratic National Committee’s Facebook page, which still has some 30,000 more fans.

The RNC also changed its Twitter handle today, from @RNC to @GOP, part of the renewed focus on social media.

CORRECTION: The Texas Republican Primary is on May 29.

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