Among rVotes' features: a tool that allows phone bank volunteers to log in from home and call a list of targeted voters similar to them in age or geography; a route-optimizer, available on handheld devices, that maps the most efficient walking path for door-knockers; and a patent-pending system that allows canvassers to jot down voter information on bar coded lists that can be instantly uploaded by scanner at campaign headquarters.
Adler approached the Republican National Committee in 2009 about adopting rVotes. But McKay, still in place as chief of staff, was "the only one smart enough to get it," he says. Republican state party chairmen around the country turned him down, too. But he isn't discouraged.
"They're wrong, I'm right," says Adler, who plans to build the system from the ground up in battleground states Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin — providing rVotes for free to lower-rung candidates, charging higher-profile candidates, and eventually forcing the Republican party apparatus to accept a system that, he insists, is far better than anything Data Trust or the Koch brothers will come up with.
That aggressive posture, though, will not be required in Adler's home state; Rhode Island's party chairman, unlike any of his colleagues nationwide, has bought into the new technology without reservation.
McKay, sitting before an elephant print in his small, stripped-down office, says he wants to "implement the first [conservative] open voter file" in the nation.
His goal: to identify 275,000 fiscally conservative voters by the 2012 election and get them to the polls.
The hurdles to this effort are many: the GOP does not have the army of union activists and progressive canvassers that Rhode Island Democrats can draw upon. And raising money remains a struggle. But it is not merely a question of money and manpower.
Undergirding McKay's project is a true-believer's conviction that the GOP is offering a better product than the Democrats — a vision for smaller government and lower taxes that will ultimately resonate with a majority of voters, even in a blue state like Rhode Island.
"This is about a conservative way of life for America versus a liberal way of life for America," McKay says. "And if you boil it down to those arguments, we represent scores more voters than they do."
But this, Democratic operatives say, is where McKay's grand plan breaks down.
Rhode Islanders simply don't buy into Republican positions on the core economic or social issues, they argue. And no amount of computer wizardry can erase that. "When you get right down to it," says former Rhode Island Democratic Party chairman Bill Lynch, "there are some things you can't disguise."
Last year's election seems a case in point: amid an historic Republican wave nationwide, the GOP made only modest gains in the General Assembly and failed to win a single Congressional or statewide office.
And that failure came with rVotes, McKay's secret weapon, already partially deployed; Adler says roughly 70 Rhode Island GOP candidates, including all of those running for the top-tier offices, used the program last fall — even as the state party, itself, dithered.
But McKay says the voter file effort has only just begun. And Democrats, he argues, shouldn't be so certain they have the voters on their side anymore.