When Steven Law was deputy secretary of labor in the George W. Bush administration, he routinely scrutinized the disclosure forms of labor unions. Unions had recently been required to report new details about how they spent their members’ dues money. Mr. Law discovered that organized labor was contributing millions to a variety of liberal groups—environmentalists, gay-rights advocates and left-wing blogs, among others.
For Mr. Law, it was a revelation and a lesson. He concluded that the labor movement had enlarged and strengthened the coalition that helped produce Democratic landslides in 2006 and 2008.
Now, as president and CEO of the independent pro-Republican group American Crossroads (AC), Mr. Law is preparing to fund seven or eight conservative organizations and create a broad front of support for Republican candidates in 2012. As a trial run, AC gave $3.7 million to the National Federation of Independent Business, $4 million to Americans for Tax Reform, and $1.5 million to the Republican State Leadership Committee in last year’s midterm election campaign. Republicans won a massive victory, and Mr. Law decided it was money well spent.
“Funding the right,” as AC calls it, isn’t the only political tactic Republicans are swiping from Democrats for use next year. Another is focusing on early voting in the weeks before Election Day, a tactic that helped Democrats capture both houses of Congress in 2006 and the White House in 2008. AC tested an early-voting operation in a special House election in Nevada in September. Republican Mark Amodei won a majority of early voters and was elected handily.
The organization has also embraced two other tactics that have been applied more effectively by Democrats in recent elections than by Republicans. One is “stretching the battlefield,” as a Republican consultant describes it, to make the Republican presidential candidate competitive in normally Democratic states—Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, for example. The other would expand the issue environment by raising subjects, such as the Solyndra solar-subsidy scandal, that voters may have heard of but failed to understand.