October 22, 2015

STEPHEN MILLER: How to Build a Digital Elephant: The GOP’s Biggest Obstacle in 2016.

Last week saw the Democrats, the purported party of Youth and Diversity, turn their first primary debate into a joyless slog that quickly devolved into a pitiless deathmarch to see which aging, pasty-faced candidate could stay awake past their bedtime the longest. It took less than five minutes for the Democratic candidates to start yelling at, and about, everyone watching. As VOXDOTCOM noted, the Democratic party is in ashes on a state and national level outside of the presidency, and they have no candidates in the post-Obama era worth offering so hey: Lincoln Chafee will have to do! The best they are offering is a 74-year-old socialist (who, a week after the debate ended, is probably still on stage screaming about communitarian economics in a darkened auditorium) and a 70-year-old oligarch with the lowest likability ratings of any presidential candidate in modern history…who also just happens to be the target of a FBI investigation for gross mishandling of classified information.

And yet, in the end none of it may matter.

The gaffes. The staged media events. The bursts of random cackling that repel voters like garlic repels vampires. The scandalous indifference to, and insolence toward, federal law. All of it may very well be utterly inconsequential in the final analysis because more and more these days it’s data and analytics that decide elections. And numbers don’t care about likability or traditional electability. The 2016 election, more than 2012 or 2008 before it, will be an election decided on data and outreach, and as of right now the GOP and its candidates are woefully underequipped and underprepared. Some of this is completely beyond their control at this early point in the primaries. But some of it is not; it is very much under their control, and the current structure of GOP campaign operations suggest that the candidates are simply choosing not to emphasize it.

Here is a simple fact: right now, the GOP is on the road to defeat, set to be overwhelmed by a superior digital voter microtargeting operation on the other side, and hamstrung by a refusal to focus on the future of predictive analytics and Big Data application technology. These are the things which translate through e-mail and online contacts, into both donations and (even more importantly) boots on the ground in the thick of a general election campaign: door-to-door mobilization. Everything else — the theater, the social media back-and-forths, the SNL appearances and Sunday morning show interviews — is almost meaningless. The 2016 pool of potential GOP nominees represents the deepest reserve of young Presidential-level talent the Republican Party has had in ages, and none of it may matter because while the engineers and developers on the Democratic side aren’t necessarily personally invested in Hillary or Bernie, they do believe in the greater Cause. And, more to the point, these are the sorts of people who simply enjoy solving equations and problems.

GOP candidates are facing a mammoth two-pronged problem: 1) the failure of will and lack of funds to field large data-driven get-out-the-vote operations, and; 2) Hillary Clinton’s well funded allies in Silicon Valley, specifically Eric Schmidt and Google. On top of that, this is a party whose candidates look like they are playing catch-up in the areas of digital operations and field mobilization.

Read the whole thing. Meanwhile, if the GOP were smarter it would be pushing Google-unfriendly changes in tax and IP law, and couching them in Democratic buzzwords to make it hard for Obama to veto them. That would encourage Google to back off of the partisanship.

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