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Politics

RPOF Awash in Dramatic Sea Change to Steer GOP to 2016 Success

May 11, 2015 - 6:00pm

Its only been four months since leadership changed hands at the Republican Party of Florida, but the party has wasted no time in a significant change-up in the way its running the show. That change is evident in the agenda for the RPOFs quarterly meeting, which will be held Friday and Saturday in Orlando.

Previous RPOF meetings began Friday and were generally quiet affairs. State committeemen and women gathered in rooms for caucus meetings. There was talk of a real need for grassroots mobilization.

Come 2015, those calls for a new movement in the RPOF are being answered. Gone are the ways of the past. Gone are the days of quiet caucus meetings.

This isnt your mothers Republican Party of Florida anymore.

Mays quarterly meeting is chock-full of changes: instead of holding caucus meetings for hours on end, party members will attend seminars on a variety of pressing issues for the party. Meetings will begin earlier in the day. Experts will be called in to help teach party members how to effectively communicate with voters in the next election cycle.

Campaign finance guru Nancy Watkins will show members the ropes of campaign finance in Campaign Finance 101. Theyll hear from political public relations pro, Sarah Bascom, about how to effectively deal with the media. Theyll learn how to use Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to reach out to potential voters in a digital engagement seminar.

These are just some of the seminars the partys put together to mobilize its members to hit the ground running in 2016.

The meeting is, of course, a sharp departure from the past ways of the RPOF.

It was very much a monologue before, said Polk County state committeewoman Debbie Hannifan. This is a dialogue.

Chairman Blaise Ingoglia, who took over the party in an upset over former chair Leslie Dougher in January, says the change is necessary if Republicans want to send one of their own to the White House during the next election cycle.

We are giving [members] the tools they need to go back and be successful in their counties but also build that grassroots army that we need in order to be successful in the 2016 elections, he told Sunshine State News.

The cards fall with Florida, says Ingoglia -- any nominee hoping to win the race to become the nations next president will undoubtedly need the states 29 electoral votes to seal the deal.

We spent a lot of time thinking of the needs and wants for 2016, said Ingoglia.

Hitting digital engagement is a huge focus of the quarterly meeting and is one aspect many in the RPOF circle are most excited about.

Once severely outpaced by Democrats in the social media game, Republicans say they have learned over the years how to craft and hone their media presence. They say theyre focused on targeting the 25-45 age demographic to push the vote and spread their message across platforms like Instagram, Vine and Snapchat -- all apps which are very popular with a younger age group.

All those really important media elements [were] much improved in 2014 than in 2012, said Pinellas County Republican Executive Committee Chair Nick DiCeglie. Weve caught up [with Democrats.] We have a huge opportunity to be a leader in those electioneering processes.

We are seeing an improvement, he continued. I think now we know what it takes.

A revamped style of quarterly meetings isnt just a one-time showing, either -- Ingoglia says this is the way meetings will be run from now on.

This is what we campaigned on [when I ran] for chair, was bringing reforms to the party, he said.

The new face of the RPOF -- and Ingoglia in particular -- have gotten a thumbs-up from party members.

This new way -- a well-oiled machine -- is just the recipe for successful 2016, said DiCeglie.

[Blaise] is boots on the ground, said Debbie Hannifan. He knows weve had critical needs at the state level and that is his first swing at being able to connect with each of those [needs.] Blaise is a leader. Im really looking forward to the remainder of this year and next year leading up to the 2016 presidential election.

Reach Tampa-based reporter Allison Nelsen by email at alliso@sunshinestatenews.com or follow her on Twitter: @AllisonNielsen

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