SALT LAKE CITY — It looked like a call center set up by the Republican National Committee to help GOP candidate Mia Love unseat Democratic Rep. Jim Matheson might be shuttered after Matheson announced he wasn't seeking re-election.
But Utah GOP Chairman James Evans said he stepped in and sold the national party on using the Provo facility to help Republican candidates around the country, especially for the U.S. Senate, now controlled by the Democrats.
"When Matheson dropped out, they were going to fold up shop. They said, 'We don't need to target (Congressional District) 4,'" Evans said. "I was able to convince them why this would be a wise use of our volunteers."
Now the call center has participated in two of the RNC's "National Day of Action" events, including the most recent on Saturday, using volunteers to make calls to voters in states with key Senate races, including Colorado and Alaska.
Evans said the center is operating under a joint agreement between the state party and the RNC and should remain open through 2016. He said the state party is responsible for providing administrative support and soliciting volunteers.
"Utah gets out of this the opportunity to help take back the Senate in 2014 and elect a Republican president in 2016," Evans said. "We in Utah have lived the example for what, the last four decades, of conservative Republican policies."
That's made for a good pool of volunteers, the state party chairman said. During the 2012 presidential race, Utah volunteers called out-of-state voters and traveled to neighboring states on behalf of GOP nominee Mitt Romney.
"One of the key benefits is Republicans in Utah are very enthusiastic," RNC spokesman Ryan Mahoney said.
The Provo center is part of a new national initiative by the GOP to improve its grassroots field operations after Romney's 2012 loss to President Barack Obama, who is widely seen as having benefited from a stronger effort to get out the vote.
"One of the key things we learned from 2012 is we can't just show up six months before an election and try to make a difference," Mahoney said. "You can't win over hearts and minds if you're just parachuting in."
Evans said call center volunteers will spend the coming months targeting GOP voters who have not been active in recent elections and work at convincing them to go the polls in November.
"Where Democrats have been far more successful than we have been is getting their base to the polls," the state party chairman said. "We are not conceding that ever again."
The Republican initiative, dubbed "Victory 365," is already employing more than 200 people in 22 states around the country for the 2014 midterm elections, according to an RNC release.
Mahoney said the "Provo Victory Center" is there to help Republican candidates in Utah, too, even though there are no Senate races in the state this year and three of four congressional seats are held by GOP incumbents seeking re-election.
"Whether we can use that enthusiasm to help elect Republicans in Utah or help push our message, it's just a great resource for the party," Mahoney said, locally and nationally.
Evans said the Provo call center is "unique because generally a call center is in the state where the battle is happening. Here, where the GOP recognizes we have a strong volunteer base, the RNC saw the benefit of tapping into that."
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