"It's the database, stupid"

· The Power of Many

Bob Jacobson from Activist-Tech, Grassroots something, and the WELL passes along this article (IT on the Campaign Trail) from CIO Magazine’s June 1, 2004, edition, calling it “State of the art reporting on the two campaign’s IT efforts.”

The 2004 presidential race may well hinge on which party most effectively exploits data mining tools to get out the vote.

In this year’s presidential election, political operatives are relying more than ever on CRM-type systems to comb voters’ histories and demographic data to find those supporters who will vote for and perhaps contribute to their cause.
To paraphrase James Carville, “It’s the database, stupid.”

Both parties have invested millions in central, state-of-the-art data warehouses, data mining software and Web-based user interfaces, creating arsenals of marketing tools that rival those of large corporations. The Republicans, who started building this capability in the mid-1990s, got a jump on the Democrats, who have raced to catch up since 2000. By their own admission, the Democrats still lack some of the capabilities that the GOP already has in place, including the ability to give every field worker in every state online access to voter information. However, says Laura Quinn, managing partner with QRS Newmedia, who developed the Democratic National Committee’s post-2000 IT strategy, the Democrats couldn’t think of winning without the investments the party has made to date.

The 2004 Race
The key to winning the presidency this year, predicts Moskowitz, will be how effectively the major parties and their candidates conduct niche marketing campaigns. “It’s going to be mobilization of lots of small universes,” she says. “This set of Hispanic voters in New Mexico, and that set of African-American voters in Michigan and nonmarried women in Pennsylvania. That is going to equal mass mobilization.”
The expectation of both parties is that their investment in data at the national level will benefit a whole slate of candidates, not just the presidential contenders. “In developing resources on things like direct voter contact, that helps things across the board for the entire ticket,” says the RNC’s Ellis.
Ellis is deploying wireless capability for field workers this year, so they’ll be able to access the Voter Vault application with a PDA and download a list of voters to contact in their door-knocking campaigns. But he says his major initiative will be to update the millions of records in the database with the latest information about new voter registrations, and changes in address and voting history provided through local election records. Like the Republicans, the Democrats will also keep updating their records so that they have accurate lists in the critical days before the election.

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