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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Monday, December 14, 2015

The Cruz Algorithm

Tom Hamburger reports at The Washington Post:
Cruz has largely built his program out of his Houston headquarters, where a team of statisticians and behavioral psychologists who subscribe to the ­burgeoning practice of “psycho­graphic targeting” built their own version of a Myers-Briggs personality test. The test data is supplemented by recent issue surveys, and together they are used to categorize supporters, who then receive specially tailored messages, phone calls and visits. Micro-targeting of voters has been around for well over a decade, but the Cruz operation has deepened the intensity of the effort and the use of psychological data.

Cruz, a critic of excessive government data collection, has been notably aggressive about gathering personal information for his campaign. Some of the data comes from typical sources, such as voters’ consumer habits and Facebook posts. Some is homegrown, such as a new smartphone app that keeps supporters in touch while giving the campaign the ability to scrape their phones for additional contacts.
In July, Kenneth Vogel and Tarini Parti reported at Politico on the company doing the work:
Cambridge Analytica is owned at least in part by the family of the press-shy New York hedge fund manager Robert Mercer, multiple sources confirmed to POLITICO. The Mercers this year provided the lion’s share of the $37 million raised by a quartet of unlimited-money super PACs supporting Cruz’s campaign for the GOP presidential nomination. Cruz’s presidential campaign has contracted with Cambridge Analytica to provide data services, and the company has had talks with at least one of those super PACs, according to sources.
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Federal Election Commission filings show that nearly 93 percent of the $2.6 million Cambridge Analytica has received in traceable federal payments has come from committees to which the Mercers donated generously. The payments — which all came last year and were for polling, micro-targeting, advertising and other services — came from Cruz’s leadership PAC and a handful of GOP-aligned big-money organizations, including Ending Spending Action Fund, former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton’s super PAC and a pop-up super PAC created to boost 2014 Republican Senate candidates. Other Cambridge Analytica clients included the campaigns of GOP Sens. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Thom Tillis of North Carolina, as well as unsuccessful GOP House candidate Art Robinson of Oregon. The Mercers combined to donate nearly $3.3 million to those groups in 2014, according to FEC filings.