Speaking of introductions, Kimberly Strassel would like you to meet the man who might just trump the Democrats’ tech advantage in targeting voters:
Mr. [Azarias] Reda, Ethiopian by birth, American by choice, was recruited by the RNC in November as its chief data officer. He and the nearly 50 data scientists and engineers he has recruited to an in-house tech incubator—Para Bellum Labs—are a mind-blowing sight at RNC headquarters. Hipsters in T-shirts and jeans wade through besuited politicians toward a digital room that sports rows of computers and dry-erase walls.
This room is where I met Mr. Reda last week and pointed out that Democrats are already ridiculing the Republicans’ big-data effort, claiming that there’s no way the GOP can catch the Obama turnout machine. The comment causes the otherwise serious young engineer to break out in a mischievous grin. “I don’t want to catch up to a presidential campaign from 2012,” he says, making 2012 sound like so last century. “What we’re doing here is what a tech startup would do in 2014. Data science has traveled a lot in just the past few years.”
The RNC line is that it intends to leapfrog Democrats in the technology of turnout, and a lot is riding on the claim.
Strassel reminds us that the GOP had been ahead in the technological arms race as recently as 2004 — and I’d remind you that their advantage actually dates back to the mid-’60s. Perhaps the biggest hurdle the Republicans face in regaining the advantage is that the Donks have Silicon Valley in their back pocket. Well, they think they do; actually it’s the other way around.
I get the feeling however that Silicon Valley’s attachment is one of convenience rather than conviction, so good luck to Azarias Reda.