Republicans, Democrats compete in Nevada to harness data for election wins

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Steve Marcus

Republican voters are shown in line at 5:30 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2016, at Western High School, a caucus site.

Tue, Jan 23, 2018 (2 a.m.)

Democrats are working to compete against a robust GOP data program that will tell the party who the likely voters are and how to get them to the polls.

In a state where Democrats dominated the 2016 election, Republican National Committee Nevada State Director Dan Coats said the organization chose Nevada as the first to ramp up for the midterm election. This is the earliest that the organization has been on the ground, he said, adding a new training director for volunteer recruitment strategies and a new voter registration director.

“Obviously there’s been struggles in the past with the party in Nevada,” Coats said Friday, the same day the organization’s data summit gathered about 60 campaign officials and strategy experts in Las Vegas. “Since we’ve been here on the ground earlier than ever before, we’ve been able to develop these relationships with county parties, central committees (and) GOP clubs.”

RNC Data Director Kristian Hemphill said it’s almost impossible for Democrats to catch up to the Republicans’ data program, a system built over two election cycles at a cost of more than $200 million and counting.

“If they were to start a modeling program that was as robust as ours, they could match us point for point into the future,” he said. “They could score every month about how voters felt about a particular issue, but they couldn’t go back and tell you how that voter felt, how that voter’s sentiment on that issue changed from September of 2017 to October of 2017 because they weren’t doing the modeling program then like we were.”

RNC Director of Turnout and Targeting Brian Parnitzke said the organization’s data going back to 2014 can show which voters have gravitated to or leaned away from the party, possible reasons why and potential messaging to bring them back.

“The parties look very different today than they did in 2014,” Parnitzke said.

DNC Chief Technology Officer Raffi Krikorian acknowledges that the RNC has a more robust system, with most of the DNC’s innovation coming during presidential cycles. He said last week that the organization is making a “significantly larger” investment in its data program than in at least the last three presidential cycles. A final cost has not yet been determined.

“We’ve already done a pretty large personnel investment in growing the size of technology and data here at the national party,” Krikorian said. “We are starting to lay down finalized budgets for what kinds of datasets we want to obtain, what programs we want to run, what tools we want to get.”

Krikorian said the DNC is collaborating with state parties and offering training and tools. Krikorian said data programs span online and offline interactions, and that on the ground work as well as social media data mining are part of the DNC’s strategy.

“Even at the bare bones, it’s figuring out how to reach and engage users where they are,” Krikorian said. “We’re obviously very interested not just in what comes off the public datasets, like name, address, home phone number, but also we’re looking at what online profiles look like.”

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