Video: Behind the scenes at the RNC Philly "war room"
I'm driving down a road so empty in East Philadelphia that my Uber driver asks if I know where I am going. I do. Here sits Arena 2300, a boxing and professional wrestling venue.
This week, however, the arena isn't filled with fighters looking to inflict physical pain on each other. The RNC has taken over.
Arena 2300 is now where political operatives look to convince members of the press and the American people that the DNC embodies everything that is wrong with American politics, where they push a narrative of rigged systems, dynasties, and status-quo politics.
RNC Research Director and Deputy Communications Director Raj Shah gave Circa an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at how Republicans have transformed Arena 2300 into a state-of-the-art spin machine.
Shah is responsible for a team that tries to research every statement Hillary Clinton has ever made in order to negatively change the public's perception of the candidate. To that end, he leaves no stone unturned.
According to Shah, every day here at 1 p.m., the RNC "will have surrogates, top operatives, coming out and getting our message out" to help tarnish Clinton's reputation.
Assisting Shah is RNC Director of Film and Visual Media Matthew Mazzone. From Arena 2300, Mazzone does interviews with Trump surrogates to be "posted on social media accounts."
Mazzone said he is in Philly to focus primarily on the speeches at the DNC to "see if an opportunity exists to [use video to] push back."
Every night, Shah says, there are about three dozen folks from RNC communications staff at the arena. "We have booking and surrogates here, Hispanic media, we have our radio bookers... we have research and communications here."
It looks like the RNC messaging machine has transported its office from D.C. to Philadelphia to ensure the DNC doesn't leave Philadelphia without at least a couple of Republican-inflicted blows, and to amplify the self-inflicted hits, like the leaked emails.
The GOP isn't just focused on giving quotes that will pop up on TV and in newspapers across the country. They are also giving reporters a space to work and relax. Inside Arena 2300, the RNC has provided reporters with wifi and has set up some games like cornhole, Connect Four, and tic-tac-toe.
And the RNC has made sure those games reinforce the party's overarching message, that the games are rigged for Hillary Clinton. For example, they have taped over the holes in cornhole so anyone playing with Bernie Sanders bean bags will lose.
Fun, but with a message.
Shah tells Circa the key to the RNC communications shop is the research department he heads.
"When we are looking into, say, Elizabeth Warren speaking tonight, first the research team digs into into what she's said, what's her background, anything she has said about Wall Street," Shah said.
"We find video, we find research clips, we put into press briefings and other elements that the press team puts out. The writers and surrogate team put together talking points based on that, and arm all our surrogates who are going on radio television elsewhere to talk about it."
But it doesn't just stop with the surrogates. Political communication these days has transformed into an all-encompassing exercise that includes in-house videos and social media. The GOP learned from the highly successful political machine that put President Barack Obama on top twice. They can no longer solely rely on traditional media outlets to get out the message.
And no stone goes unturned. The RNC even fashioned their Philadelphia logo to look like the Budweiser logo, seen at the center of many boxing rings. The message? They want to make sure you understand that Democrats are fighting each other in Philadelphia.