In the aftermath of the 2012 Republican defeat, we have no shortage of GOP strategists willing to embrace the impact of data and technology in electoral politics. All but the most stubborn are also racing to implement some form of “new software tools” or “Big Data analytics” into their strategic rhetoric moving forward, in an effort to “catch up to the left” and their successful use of new tech.
Most speak of their decision to accept the way campaigning has changed as transformative, as if choosing to ditch the pencil and paper will itself put Republicans on even ground with the opposition.
The truth is that campaigning has not only changed – it is continuing to change. Simply implementing comparable techniques to what Obama’s 2012 team utilized (while a huge step forward for most Republican efforts) will not be enough. The Democrats’ 2012 data operations were successful not because they had never been used before; they were successful because they had been used before – and built upon nonstop since the day Obama was first elected in 2008.
Obama’s 2008 tech efforts may not have been a huge success, but it was the experience of having tried and failed that gave Obama 2012 what they needed to execute their revolutionary 2012 campaign. And any Republicans who think that equaling Obama’s 2012 technology will put them on even ground with Democrats in 2016 are living in a dream world.
We must vigilantly push to go far beyond what we saw in 2012; and we must realize that simply embracing a few buzzwords and throwing wasteful resources at the same old “tech” consultants will hardly get us even with Obama 2008. There seems to be a prevailing notion that Republicans’ decision to utilize “Big Data” can alone make the difference necessary. What is lost for some reason is the importance of using the proper techniques for utilizing all this data.
For example, while Republican pundits were flabbergasted by Romney’s defeat in November, rational statisticians like Nate Silver had no problem predicting the results. What is notable is that Romney’s people had access to far more data than Silver, who simply analyzed electoral trends through publicly available polling results and a Bayesian statistical model.
“Big” Data, then, refers not simply to the size and complexity of the data. As has been seen countless times, volume and variety don’t necessarily lead to victory. Big Data is a Big Deal, then, not because of its size, but because of its value – or, more accurately, its potential value. Without the proper tools and techniques for taking advantage of Big Data, it can actually do more harm than good.
Voter Gravity is committed to providing campaigns of all sizes with not only state-of-the-art outreach tools, but also the analytics consulting needed to take full advantage of that new outreach potential – and make Obama 2012 look like Gore 2000. According to Democracy for America’s Nick Passanante, though, Obama’s 2012 technology is more than the GOP can handle:
“It’s no secret,” says Passanante, “that the Republicans have remained embarrassingly far behind Democrats in the way that we use technology and data to win campaigns – heck, they couldn’t even manage to keep their GOTV system from crashing on election day in 2012. It’s pretty laughable… I doubt the GOP would ever be able to figure out how to implement software such as this successfully.”
Thanks to Voter Gravity (our software was crash-free on election day in 2012), the future is looking bright for Republicans who want to do more than just talk about utilizing the potential of data and technology. In the words of Judas Priest, Passanante – and those Republicans who think “Big Data” alone can win them elections – got another thing comin’.