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RNC Chair Candidates Talk Tech at FreedomWorks Forum

BY Nick Judd | Thursday, December 2 2010

During the FreedomWorks-sponsored debate for candidates for Republican National Committee chairman yesterday, the candidates took a question about how they would address, in the questioner's view, the way the Democrats seem to constantly beat Republicans on the technology front.

Gentry Collins, the former RNC political director who recently resigned and publicly criticized current chairman Michael Steele on the way out, Saul Anuzis, the former chairman of the Michigan GOP who worked on technology efforts for the RNC earlier this year, and Ann Wagner, a former ambassador and Missouri GOP chair, gave the most detailed responses.

The event was streamed live by FreedomWorks, although an archive is not yet available.

"I think our technology and the advances we have to make are not confined, first of all, to our online efforts, though we might start there," Collins said. "We have got to be less about a website and more about a turnout platform ... We have got to stop looking at our email list as something to be exploited for a couple of dollars every couple of weeks and start looking at our email list as something to drive Republican turnout."

Former RNC chairman Mike Duncan, the fourth candidate at the debate, emphasized in his response the importance of offline action more than focusing on technology tools.

In his answer, Anuzis focused on social media, and pushed back against the idea that communicating there was only useful for getting out the youth vote.

"The largest demographic that's now growing on Facebook are women between the ages of 45 and 55," he said. "These aren't just kids, guys. These are our viewers."

Wagner had some fun with that statement, saying that those women on Facebook were there to watch their children — because they were wondering what their children were doing online — but also embraced social media in her remarks.

The (Springfield, Mo.) News-Leader quotes her this way:

Wagner said that she saw the power of social media firsthand during Blunt's Senate campaign.

"It was an absolute constant presence," she said, describing how the RNC should use social media not only to reach out to voters, but also to boost turnout.

Republicans on Twitter were commenting throughout the debate, with
Liz Mair, a Republican new media consultant at Hynes Communications who worked on Carly Fiorina's Senate campaign this year, applauding Collins on Twitter:

And Patrick Ruffini, the Republican online politics consultant and co-founder of online politics firm Engage, highlighting the tech positions of Collins, Anuzis, and Wagner:

Americans for Tax Reform plans to host candidates for the RNC leadership at another debate on Jan. 3, and is soliciting questions for the candidates on its website.