A year after the 2012 election in which the Obama campaign dominated on data and Republicans wondered how they could catch up, both parties saw 2013 as not only a testing ground for new digital strategies but also a test of how much ground the GOP has made up.
Democratic Gov.-elect Terry McAuliffe’s campaign, building on the foundations of Obama’s 2012 data operation, was able to adapt many of Obama’s data strategies to a state-level race.
As for the GOP, even though GOP Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s campaign made strides — it created a data platform that could be used by all parts of the campaign — it never made digital a real priority. Ultimately, the candidate’s lack of funding — combined with what GOP digital consultants call a more general lack of attention and resources for digital — kept the Republican candidate from closing the gap with McAuliffe.
“For the first time on a major [GOP] campaign, the digital team had a major seat at the table and was involved in most of the decision making,” said Wesley Donehue, Cuccinelli’s lead digital consultant. “The problem is that you’re still not a top priority, and the spending on the digital side is … still extremely low.”
Take the spending figures on digital. According to data from the Virginia Public Access Project, McAuliffe’s campaign paid its digital advertising agency 13 percent of what it paid for TV and radio expenditures. The corresponding figure for the Cuccinelli campaign was 2.5 percent