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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

The Iron Law of Emulation: Campaign Tech Edition


Previous posts have discussed the iron law of emulation: the tendency of both sides in a conflict to copy each other.

Ashley Parker writes at The New York Times:
The Republicans’ ground game and digital strategy in 2012 were disasters, bad enough to become a political punch line. The party was determined not to repeat those mistakes, and operatives were well on their way to overhauling its systems this election cycle when the Democrats announced their “Bannock Street project,” an ambitious voter-mobilization program.
Though the Republicans were already building a national ground game, they decided to leverage the Democrats’ $60 million get-out-the-vote effort to their own advantage. They devoured news reports about the project and scoured Federal Election Commission filings to learn as much as they could about how their rivals were structuring their turnout operations in battleground states.
“It was kind of a mirror image of what we were doing,” said Rob Collins, executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. “It gave us the scope, it gave us the size, and it gave us the target, which was helpful.”
...
Both sides have a tendency to overstate the role of the technological wizardry, especially after a lopsided election. “Frankly, it’s easier to say the other side had better computers than to say we had worse ideas,” said Sasha Issenberg, author of “The Victory Lab: The Secret Science of Winning Campaigns.”
But, he added, those tactics can make a critical difference in a close election — and keep an election closer for a party facing political headwinds.
“It appears that Bannock Street was successful in what they were trying to do,” said Mike Shields, chief of staff at the Republican National Committee. “The difference is we are now in this game, too, and they don’t have the game to themselves.”
At National Journal, Ron Fournier writes:
A review of the RNC's targeting operation (including a preelection sample of specific projections) suggests to me that the GOP has made significant advances on targeting and mobilizing voters. While the Democratic Party may still own the best ground game, GOP Chairman Reince Priebus has narrowed, if not closed, the tech gap.
A few Democrats saw this coming. "Our side has underestimated the GOP ground game," Democratic pollster Celinda Lake told me Tuesday morning. "Their electorate doesn't look like ours, so we don't recognize or respect what they're doing."