ABC News’ Michael Falcone reports:
The world of political opposition research got a little more crowded on Thursday with the formation of a new Republican super PAC aimed at roughing up Democratic candidates, particularly the 2016 presidential contenders.
The group, headed by Mitt Romney’s former campaign manager, Matt Rhoades, plans to expose political opponents “for pandering, flip-flopping, corruption, conflicts of interest and more,” according to talking points obtained by ABC News.
The group will be called “America Rising” and it is meant to be the Republican answer to the Democratic super PAC, American Bridge 21st Century, which launched during the 2012 cycle with a similar mission.
“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery,” American Bridge president Rodell Mollineau said in an interview. “A few words of caution: It’s not as easy as it looks.”
Mollineau said the group’s founders, including Rhoades and two former Republican National Committee officials, will soon confront “a bevy of operational financial political considerations.” And he pointed out that American Bridge has a two-year head start and one presidential election cycle under its belt.
Nevertheless, officials with America Rising see their upstart group as filling a void.
“We plan to start this enterprise because so many Republicans seem to agree there is a need on our side of the aisle for an entity that is focused solely on holding Democrats accountable for their actions and records using research, candidate tracking, rapid response and digital tools,” Rhoades said in a statement.
Their weapons of choice, according to the talking points: “research, candidate tracking, rapid response, and digital tools.”
And the Republican operatives say they are not only going to “mimic” Mollineau and his team, they plan to “lap” the Democrats by “a) investing in an online infrastructure that has never before been built for political research, b) using the Super PAC as a testing ground for finding the most effective digital and rapid response tools for disseminating information about Democrat candidates and left-wing causes.”
Joining Rhoades in the venture are former RNC spokesman Tim Miller and former RNC research director Joe Pounder, both of whom are experienced GOP political hands. The organization will have two arms — one to provide campaigns, advocacy groups and party committees with research and tracking intelligence and another that will spearhead communications, social media, and digital advertising. The group says it will not run television ads.
The formation of a GOP research arm like this was among the recommendations contained in Monday’s release of the RNC’s post-election “autopsy” report.
In 2011 and 2012, American Bridge dispatched trackers around the country, focusing on both the Republican presidential hopefuls as well as GOP candidates in key U.S. Senate races. The group also produced reams of research material on those on Mitt Romney’s vice presidential short list.
Mollineau said that Republican House, Senate, gubernatorial and presidential candidates are all on his super PAC’s target list in the coming election cycles. And he told ABC News he harbored no ill will toward the new GOP effort — even tweeting a congratulatory message to Miller on Thursday.
“Our job is to hold Republicans accountable for their actions,” Mollineau said. “I don’t necessarily see that as being at war with a Republican version of American bridge.”