News & Politics

Trump Won't Spend Much on Data Operations Because It's 'Overrated'

Donald Trump told the Associated Press that he isn’t going to spend a lot of money on a sophisticated data operation because he thinks it’s “overrated.”

Most political analysts believe President Obama’s 2012 data operation and use of digital media was a major reason for his victory over Mitt Romney.

“My best investment is my rallies,” the White House hopeful said in an interview with The Associated Press on Tuesday.

The people go home, they tell their friends they loved it. It’s been good.”

Obama’s data mining was seen as a key to his success in bringing out voters in 2012, but Trump downplayed it during the interview.

“Obama got the votes much more so than his data processing machine,” he said.

“And I think the same is true with me.”

NRO’s Jim Geraghty wryly notes, “Why Would Any Candidate Forsake a Data-Driven Turnout Operation?”

Someone tell me – what’s the downside of having a sophisticated data operation to identify, target, persuade and mobilize voters? The Democrats’ analysis of what went right for them in 2008 concluded that registered voters contacted by the member groups of Catalyst, their primary data analysis company, turned out at a rate of 74.6 percent; the voters who weren’t turned out in proportions roughly equivalent to the national average — about 60.4 percent.

Then in 2012, when the traditional turnout models forecast a Romney win, the Obama campaign went out and did it again. They went out and found unregistered voters who would be likely to vote for them and got them registered and mobilized:

“Most striking is the net gain numbers, which factor in newly registered voters, party switchers and removes people who are no longer voters in Florida. Since January, the Florida Democratic Party has had a net gain of 415,580 voters, while the Republican Party of Florida has only gained 169,841. This shows that the gap between Democrats and Republicans in Florida has grown by 245,739 voters this year alone.”

A thorough demographic breakdown of the new Florida voters registered through Sept. 30 provided to the Huffington Post showed that 149,562, or 18.6 percent of this year’s new registrants are African-American. That rate runs ahead of the US Census’ 2006 estimation that African Americans represent 15.8 percent of Florida’s population — perhaps revealing that the Obama campaign’s attempt to register black voters at historic, potentially game-changing rates might have paid some dividends.

Then throughout the fall campaign they knew exactly where they stood in just about every demographic imaginable.

In defense of Trump, the Obama 2012 operation had six years to mature into the digital juggernaut it became. But it was hardly “overrated.” Whoever told him that is ludicrously uninformed.

Any tool that gives a candidate an edge of 3-5% cannot be overrated. Trump could draw a million people to rallies in Virginia but the only way he is going to win that state in November is if he identifies his supporters, registers them, and gets them to the polls. And the data operation required to drive that effort must be substantial.

To believe that he can get more people to the polls than Clinton on the strength of his personality is delusional. If he has professionals working for him, do any of them dare contradict him and point out the error of his thinking? Surely, the Trump campaign can’t build an Obama-style operation in a few months. But what can be done must be done.

There’s no other option if Trump is serious about winning.