Power Players

Can computer geeks save the GOP? Meet the guys trying to give the party a digital edge

Power Players

Power Players

If only Mitt Romney had had a few thousand more Twitter followers and Facebook friends.

So say Bret Jacobson and Ian Spencer, millennial techies and co-founders of the conservative digital strategy group Red Edge. The high-tech entrepreneurs believe the failed GOP presidential nominee could have defeated President Obama simply with a better showing on social media.

"If you had run a really competent, really aggressive digital campaign, you probably could have won an Electoral College vote,” says Jacobson of the 2012 election. “The difference is roughly 450,000 in a couple swing states and you could more than make up for that difference.”

Bold claims from a dynamic duo now leading the charge for a Republican Party reboot. Jacobson and Spencer say they are convinced that despite previous failed attempts, the party can surpass Democrats' social media machine by the 2016 presidential race.

The Obama campaign was "incredibly good at empowering people to receive and share information" on the web, Facebook in particular, which allowed the organizers and fundraisers to build individualized voter profiles based on people's profile information, Jacobson says.

"They were able to specifically reach out and… help identify these people who need to register to vote,” he says. “And it turns out that after a million people logged in, they actually yielded a million real world voter registrations and votes from those people, which is really powerful stuff.”

For Republicans to match, the Red Edge guys want an extreme makeover: bringing "Internet culture into the Republican culture," but ultimately tapping a tech-savvy candidate who can build a strong digital following.

Who among early 2016 candidates has an early edge? “Rand Paul,” says Spencer of the Kentucky Republican senator.

"In terms of the grassroots support his father [Ron Paul] has enjoyed, many of whom also support him, I think he's in a kind of unique position to really make some waves online...because there's so many small dollar donors who, who went to Ron and who may now go to Rand," he said.

To hear more about how Red Edge wants to buff up the GOP's digital strategy, and to hear how they think the RNC's "autopsy" of the party missed the mark, check out this episode of Power Players.

ABC's Eric Wray, Betsy Klein, Freda Kahen Kashi, Jim Martin, and Mary Quinn contributed to this episode.

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