Dems Plan 'Project Ivy' Tech Program to Creep Up on GOP

WASHINGTON – Democrats are confident their tech and data tools will help them gain some ground on the GOP’s edge in the midterm elections.

The Democratic National Committee (DNC) rolled out the latest iteration of its data and technology arm during its winter meeting, hoping the improvements will help them spend money and deploy volunteers more wisely nationwide.

The DNC has launched a tech program, called “Project Ivy,” that will implement the tools that worked during the last two presidential campaigns and scale them to help candidates at every level during the 2014 midterms and beyond.

The program was named after the street where the DNC’s home office is located. But as DNC spokesperson Mo Elleithee told members of the DNC’s Midwestern Caucus on Friday, it is also because Ivy is “resilient and tears down walls.”

“All of the naysayers, especially the Republicans, wanted to do a lot of crowing after we won the elections in 2012 that we were never gonna be able to replicate those victories,” said DNC Chairwoman Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.). “Guess what? Our former chair Terry McAuliffe is Governor McAuliffe of Virginia.”

Democrats cleaned up in Virginia last year, winning control of the offices of governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general. The DNC credits their technological upper hand over the Republican National Committee (RNC) for their success in Virginia.

“Republicans are desperate to catch up to us, particularly with our digital and technological advantage. That’s why we launched Project Ivy…to make sure we can marry our grass-roots leadership and activism with our digital and technological sophistication,” Wasserman Schultz said.

The RNC announced at the beginning of February it was launching a startup to emulate the digital campaign strategy Democrats have effectively employed in recent years.

“Republicans are going to write a check and think this is just going to solve the data issue for them. You think the Rand Paul people will share the information with the Chris Christie people?” said R.T. Rybak, vice chair of the DNC and former mayor of Minneapolis.

The DNC is also launching a voter expansion program that will train campaign workers around the country on restrictions and rules and what to do about them.

“We’re making sure we’re the leaders on expanding the right to vote,” Wasserman Schultz said. “We know when more voters vote, Democrats win, and the Republicans know that, too.”

Democrats have an uphill battle in this year’s midterm elections, hoping to hold onto their majority in the Senate and pick up the 17 seats held by Republicans to win back control of the House. Democrats will need all the help they can get as the president and his healthcare law remain unpopular.

Midwestern states where the GOP could prevail include Michigan, Iowa, and South Dakota. Democratic senators Carl Levin of Michigan, Tom Harkin of Iowa, and Tim Johnson of South Dakota have all announced their retirement.

“We’ve got a lot to do in the Midwest. We’ve got a lot of races and a lot of opportunities,” Wasserman Schultz said.

She said the Democrats have a good chance of holding onto the seats from Iowa and Michigan.

A recent Quinnipac University poll showed Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley leading all potential GOP challengers in the Iowa Senate race.

Democrats are also hoping to hold onto Braley’s seat in Iowa’s First Congressional District. They hold a 33 percent advantage in voter registration with 40 percent of First District voters identifying as “no party,” according to The Gazette.

Rep. Tom Latham (R) of Iowa’s Third Congressional District is retiring and Democrats are confident they will pick up his seat in November.

“It’s a solid district for us, we’ve got a good candidate, and it’s a crazy show on the Republican side so we’re hoping to pick up that seat,” said Scott Brennan, chair of the Iowa Democratic Party.

In Michigan, Democratic Rep. Gary Peters is running for Levin’s Senate seat. An EPIC-MIRA poll shows that Republican Terri Lynn is ahead of Peters with a 41-38 lead.

The retirement of Sen. Johnson could also allow the GOP to capture another Senate seat in the midterm elections. South Dakota has consistently voted for Republican presidential candidates in every election since 1964.

“We’re probably as red as any state can get,” said South Dakota Party Chair Deb Knecht. “So we’ve been building the state party from the ground up.”

Democrats are also hoping to pick up some gubernatorial seats in the Midwest.

The Democratic Governors Association has already spent $2 million on advertising in Michigan hoping to take out Gov. Rick Snyder and replace him with former Democratic Rep. Mark Schauer. Polls show Snyder is leading Schauer by 8 points.

Michigan Party Chair Lon Johnson said he is confident that Snyder will win as the state’s Democratic Party is focusing on bringing out the one million registered Democrats in the state that do not traditionally vote in non-presidential elections.

Democrats are also focusing on Wisconsin, where Gov. Scott Walker will face voters for the third time since his 2010 election. Polling shows him leading Democratic businesswoman Mary Burke by six percentage points.

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback’s prospects for a second term have suffered due to his unpopularity among independent voters and moderate Republicans.

“We have a very good ticket and last polls that we had showed that Paul Davis was leading against Gov. Sam Brownback,” said DNC Committeewoman Teresa Krusor.

Polls show that Brownback trails Davis, a state House Democrat, by two percentage points.

“We have some very important former Republican Senate minority leaders and House minority leaders who will come out and endorse Davis against Sam Brownback,” Krusor said.