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The new wave in micro-targeting for GOTV

The Washington Post has a story today that suggests that Democrats are scrambling (again) to build a GOTV operation for the fall election. While the piece smacks of a intra-party feud via the media, there's some interesting tidbits about the use of campaign database technology hiding in there.

First, the Republicans' well-known 72-hour program:

The RNC runs a strategy known in political circles as the 72-hour program. It focuses on using phone calls, polling data and personal visits to identify would-be GOP voters and their top issues early in the cycle. The information is then fed into a database, allowing party leaders to flood them with pro-Republican messages through e-mail, regular mail and local volunteers. On Election Day, they receive a phone call or a visit to remind them to vote.

A GOP strategist involved in the effort said the RNC did a post-election review of every person it contacted, looking at how many times they were reached, which issues were discussed and whether they voted. This information was supplied to about 30 targeted states earlier this year, and RNC officials track the states to see whether they are reaching goals for adding new names and contacting old ones.

Meanwhile, the Democrats are starting to get their act together:

At the same time, a cottage industry of voter-targeting specialists is taking root. Ken Strasma of Strategic Telemetry, for instance, is using voter, marketing and demographic data to identify new voters for 25 House and Senate candidates. "I think we have definitely caught up with, if not exceeded, Republicans in terms of technology, but getting it implemented and into the field, that's another question," he said. Strasma -- like the Service Employees International Union, MoveOn.org and others -- draws much of his voter information from Data Warehouse, a company run by Democratic operatives Harold Ickes and Laura Quinn.

Who is Ken Strasma? For starters, check out the website for his company - Strategic Telemetry. Pretty fascinating stuff:

The idea behind micro-targeting is to look at what we know about voters we were able to ID, and to use that information to build a statistical model to predict how voters we didn't reach would have IDed if we had reached them. Strategic Telemetry combines voter ID information from phone or door-to-door canvasses with detailed demographic and marketing information in order to build the statistical models. This technique can be applied to predict support for a specific candidate or issue, likelihood of being undecided, likelihood of voting, or to find likely contributors.

Strasma also wrote a fascinating piece for the magazine Winning Campaigns this spring.

He was also profiled in American Prospect - along with Michael Whouley and John Norris - for their work winning the 2004 Iowa caucuses for John Kerry:

Using the 1988 Iowa turnout data, Strasma estimated precinct-level turnout projections by updating the 16-year-old numbers to account for population shifts and registration rates.

With those two pieces of information, Strasma identified where Kerry needed a bit more support to pick up another delegate or two, and places where he already had enough or excess support. After all, turning out voters where it won't translate into additional delegates is a waste of scarce resources (phone calls, mail pieces, volunteer door knockers) better spent where the projected "vote goal" will win another delegate.

"The math is important," reminds Strasma. ... "Every night we'd crunch the numbers in spreadsheets and print them out for all 1,993 precincts," recalls Strasma. "We had a daily graph. Then, in the last few days, we started figuring out where to best spend our resources." The scheduling staff was told where to organize events for Kerry or his surrogates. "It was fun watching those charts darken up," admits a gleeful Norris.

Yup, the math is definitely important.

Note: I have no relationship, fiduciary or otherwise, with Ken Strasma. I just find this stuff fascinating and important.