BOSTON -- If you knew nothing else about the Republican Party, two days at the Republican National Committee's Summer Meeting would convince you that it's a party taking its recovery seriously, having bottomed out with embarrassing polling and technological failures in the fall of 2012, along with major deficits in appeal to key demographic groups.
The RNC's new political director, Chris McNulty, was executive director of the Ohio GOP during the critical George W. Bush turnout push there in 2004. In July, the committee brought on Bush's campaign tech whiz, Chuck DeFeo, who built the digital operation that helped beat John Kerry. The RNC courted engineer Andy Barkett of Facebook to be its chief technology officer, enticing him in June to take on a consulting gig building the next-generation digital and data architecture the party hopes to use for everything from city council contests to the 2014 midterms to the 2016 presidential contest.
RNC Chairman Reince Priebus used the Summer Meeting, which drew an unusually large press contingent, to launch his Rising Stars program to highlight up and comers from around the country. Among them: the charismatic Oklahoma Speaker of the House T.W. Shannon -- a staunchly conservative former staffer for one-time Rep. J.C. Watts who is also a member of the Chickasaw Nation and the representative from Comanche County -- and Karin Agness, an attorney and former director of academic programs at the American Enterprise Institute who is also the founder of the Network of Enlightened Women. Women and people of color on panels abounded, as did younger faces; a large number of attendees in the ballrooms of the Westin Hotel even had their own hair color, rather than the whites and greys that tend to predominate at high-level GOP events.