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More on FreedomWorks as anti-BGTX

Texas Monthly takes a look.

Texas Democrats have, as we all know, been flailing over the past few decades. They are the minority party in both houses of the Lege and haven’t won a statewide race since 1994. Underdogs, we might call them. And even if they’ve been showing signs of life over the past few months, many observers remain unimpressed: if Democrats don’t start announcing campaigns for the 2014 elections, they won’t even win the Participation Award.

But Matt Kibbe doesn’t scoff at underdogs.

Kibbe is the president and CEO of FreedomWorks, a nonprofit group headquartered in Washington, D.C., which supports grassroots conservative efforts around the country. In June, Kibbe and Co. announced a new campaign to keep Texas red called “Come and Take It.” Its budget is nearly $8 million dollars. Its goal is to send out 250,000 conservative volunteers on the ground around the state.

And its motive is mostly respect, Kibbe said, for the idea that Democrats can actually make some headway in Texas. Whitney Neal, the Director of Grassroots for the campaign, says the plan was originally crowdsourced from activists in Texas who, fearing a blue takeover, called on FreedomWorks for help. Kibbe pointed specifically to Battleground Texas, the progressive nonprofit that set up shop earlier this year, vowing to “turn Texas blue.”

“I take [Battleground’s] threat very much seriously,” Kibbe said in a phone interview with Texas Monthly . “I think we’ve got a greater ability to out-organize the establishment Republican efforts, and if we don’t help the activists do that, I’m just afraid it won’t get done.”


The two major ticket items that “Come and Take It” is pushing are education reform—greater school choice, that is—and economic opportunity. And the whole abortion thing? Out of the picture, according to Kibbe, who said that social issues have never been on FreedomWorks’ agenda and never will be.

In fact, Kibbe insists that the “Come and Take It” campaign is nonpartisan and won’t endorse any specific candidates. “It’s not about electing Republicans,” he said. “This is about creating a constituency for economic freedom and opportunity and real choice of education. And if we do that, the political problems really resolve themselves.” If Democrats were pushing those two principles, he later added, he’d want them to get elected.

Most Democrats might roll their eyes at the idea of finding common ground with FreedomWorks, and some would point out that, despite all the commotion about Battleground Texas, it wasn’t until this summer that the people of Texas showed any unusual interest in the Democratic Party—and the issue at hand was reproductive rights, not jobs. But Kibbe may be right that the “Come and Take It” campaign will appeal to many voters. Texas has always been a small-government state. Its Democrats tend to be more fiscally conservative than their national counterparts, and, for that matter, it would be unlikely for either party to win a statewide campaign by focusing solely on social issues. Regardless of the political activism in Austin, the state of Texas is bigger than the Capitol grounds.

That’s exactly why Texas’s conservatives have been so dismissive of groups like Battleground Texas, with their dreams of turning Texas blue—and it’s why it’s so striking that FreedomWorks, at least, is worried that they’re not just dreaming.

See here for more. I note that original story, in Politico, had a bit about FreedomWorks “hiring 10 to 20 field directors”, which is quite a bit less ambitious than finding a quarter of a million volunteers, who might require a bit more management than that if they can be found. As for the claim that FW will not be Republican-specific, forgive me if I’m a tad bit cynical about that. It’s either a dodge to maintain the veneer of nonpartisanship needed for 501c3 status, which means donor anonymity, or it’s just blowing smoke. But hey, maybe they’ll prove me wrong. In the meantime, I remain unworried about this.

Who else is afraid of Battleground Texas?

FreedomWorks, that’s who.

The conservative outside group FreedomWorks has drawn up plans to spend nearly $8 million mobilizing and expanding the GOP base in Texas, in a move to counter state and national Democratic efforts to make the state more electorally competitive, POLITICO has learned.

In a twelve-page internal strategy document obtained by POLITICO, FreedomWorks says that the Republican Party should be alarmed in particular by the Democratic group Battleground Texas, which several Obama campaign officials founded this year with the mission of organizing liberal-leaning constituencies that currently vote at below-average rates.

The FreedomWorks memo likens that offensive to the so-called “Colorado Model” – a successful initiative by Democratic donors and organizers to make Colorado a blue state over the past decade – and spells out an itemized budget for responding from the right.

“In 2012, Team Obama turned out their core supporters by registering new voters, offering transportation to the polls and emphasizing early votes. Battleground Texas is sure to employ similar tactics to take advantage of these untapped constituencies,” the memo says. “But FreedomWorks is ready to fight. We have a track record of engaging the grassroots through previous battles and victories, and have focused for years on rebuilding the Republican brand by holding legislators accountable for their votes.”

The ambitious FreedomWorks budget – which comes to just under $7,950,000 – calls for hiring 10 to 20 field directors ($240,000) and opening field offices in Austin, Houston, San Antonio and Dallas ($204,000).

It outlines extensive research and outreach efforts, including $1.8 million to be spent collecting issue surveys from Texans, $1.6 million for online media advertising, $1 million for paid neighborhood canvassing and hundreds of thousands of dollars for Facebook, Twitter and email outreach.

The budget also sets aside a quarter-million dollars for “scientific field experiments [which] will be used to show which grassroots activities provide the most bang for our buck.”

All told, it looks like a game plan designed to anticipate and mirror the activities of an Obama campaign-trained Democratic operation, with all the bells and whistles of the president’s famously sophisticated 2012 campaign.

Notably, the FreedomWorks strategy memo does not call for revising the Republican Party’s traditional issue positions. On the contrary, the group’s theory of the case insists that fidelity to small-government principles will attract Latinos and young voters, who are currently skeptical of the GOP in part because it has failed to outline a coherent agenda for economic growth.

Whatever. Look, no one ever believed that Battleground Texas would be uncontested in its efforts. I expect the Republicans to spend a bunch of money in Texas to hold onto what they’ve got – they’re already spending a bunch of money to do that, and there’s no reason to believe that will end anytime soon. I don’t know how many people they think they can find that already agree with them but don’t vote regularly, but I’m sure there are a few out there. It’s not my concern, and it’s not BGT’s concern. If they think that the polls are wrong about what Latinos and young voters want – there’s a lot of overlap between those two groups these days – or they think that the Latinos and young voters themselves are wrong about what they want, I say knock yourself out. We’ll see who’s right in the end, and with the events of this past Tuesday providing a strong wind at our backs, I like our chances better than I like theirs.