Precinct Walking Goes 21st Century as Parties Vie for Best Tech Strategy

Democrats and Republicans are locked in a space race of sorts, competing to have the best campaign election technology in the field.

Rather than landing on the Moon, the race is to get their man (or woman) into the White House.

While the Democrats may have taken the lead in the 2012 election cycle, Republicans think the GOP has caught up with them in some areas, and surpassed them in others.

Republican sources say they perfected micro-targeting in the George W. Bush campaigns. The Obama team expanded on micro-targeting in the digital world for his campaign and now Republicans are taking what they’ve all learned and are building on it for the entire party – not just a presidential candidate.

Mike Czin, the press secretary for the Democratic National Committee, believes Republicans are giving themselves far too much credit.

“The Republicans are trying to figure out and reverse engineer what we did a couple of years ago,” he said. “They are throwing a lot of money at the problem, but they are still many generations of technology behind.”

Republicans set out in 2013 to completely redo the way they used data and technology in daily political operations, invested millions in collecting new data and built a set of tools that the RNC believes will help GOP candidates win.

The DNC has been investing in campaign technology for over a decade, building a centralized voter file that is designed to help state and county Democrats run better, smarter campaigns by facilitating improved one-on-one, face-to-face contact with voters.

They have used a 50-state strategy, investing millions of dollars a year to improve the system, incrementally, Czin said.

The result is what the DNC calls “Project Ivy,” the fourth-generation of DNC and Democratic Party’s investment in data and technology.

The GOP tech teams created two canvassing apps, along with an improved voter scoring system and APIs (application programming interface) to allow the RNC to work with campaigns, state parties and technology vendors in this new team effort.

The new campaign-voter management technology is credited with helping Republican David Jolly win a March special election in Florida for a U.S. House seat.

The Republican National Committee began by creating an in-house, startup organization known as Para Bellum Labs and recruited the best talent they could get from companies like Facebook and LinkedIn.

From this startup, Republicans rolled out a national voter file called One Data. They believe it is going to be the most comprehensive data file in their party’s history.

It already has 190 million active U.S. voters in its databanks with information on a voter’s age, gender, voting history, demographics, party identification, phone numbers, addresses and precinct locations, and it is constantly being rebuilt by the RNC’s IT team to make sure the data it holds is up to date.

The whole thing was rebuilt twice in the last year and now includes 18 years of voter history.

The problem for Republicans in 2012 was not a lack of data. They always have had a lot of numbers. It was the use of that data that was the problem. The emphasis now is making sure that not only is the data more accurate and more up to date, but that they are using it more effectively.

This brings us to the next tier in this new RNC system is predictive analytics, called the Foresight System.

The old system ranked voters on a scale of 1-5. If a voter was a 5, the voter was deemed likely to vote. If the voter received a score of 1, he or she probably wouldn’t bother to vote.

The new system ranks voters from 1-to-100 with seven inputs. The old system only had one input.