Republicans, Democrats Prepare to Use Big Data to Shape Voter Outreach in Senate Race
(INDIANAPOLIS) - Indiana's Senate race will be a big-money election. It'll also be a "Moneyball" election.
Republicans say they've been refining a gigantic 300-terabyte database since 2013 which gives every voter a score to predict how they're likely to vote, who's most persuadable, and how best to reach them with ads and volunteers. Republican National Committee turnout director Brian Parnitzke says the database combines results of polls and results of interviews with volunteers, and goes far beyond issue preferences to details like whether you take yoga classes -- he says there's a correlation between following a daily fitness routine and turning out to vote.
Parnitzke boasts the database predicts elections better than polls, while the larger sample and level of detail allows the party to target the voters most likely to tip the balance. He says it saved a Republican House seat in the special election in Georgia last year to replace then-Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price. Parnitzke says local Republicans insisted the seat was safely Republican, while the data showed Democrat Jon Ossoff in position to win the seat in the first round of voting. The RNC pumped up Republicans to hold Ossoff below the needed majority, then targeted 19,000 specific undecided voters for extra outreach in the final days of the race.
Will Baskin-Gerwitz, a spokesman for Senator Joe Donnelly says Democrats will have a "topnotch" data team of their own. He isn't going into detail, but says Democrats will compete for every vote. He notes Donnelly's regular weekend trips back to Indiana, and says voters are endorsing the bipartisan approach he says Donnelly embodies.
Baskin-Gerwitz says Donnelly's willingness to reach across the aisle allows him to gain votes from across the aisle, a necessity in red-state Indiana. He says the senator has sided with or against President Trump on an issue-by-issue basis, and predicts voters will appreciate that. Republicans say they'll paint Donnelly's claims of bipartisanship as a facade which doesn't match his voting record.
Both sides say they see the just-passed tax cut bill working in their favor. RNC regional political director Steven Ostrow argues there's strong support for Trump's agenda, and says the database can target Donnelly supporters with reminders Donnelly voted against the tax cut. Baskin-Gerwitz says the bill is unpopular, and says it's Congressmen Luke Messer and Todd Rokita who will have to defend their yes votes if either is the nominee.
Both parties say they're well-positioned to win the seat, but both acknowledge it'll be a hard-fought battle. Neither is willing to characterize which side has the edge right now.
Donnelly won the seat in 2012 while carrying 26 counties, including 17 won that year by Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, and 22 which Trump won four years later.
Reps. Luke Messer and Todd Rokita (R) with President Trump at an Oval Office ceremony last year. (Photo: Office of Rep. Todd Rokita)