J. Christian Adams has a stunning piece at PJ media called ‘CATALIST’: Obama’s Database for Fundamentally Transforming America and I urge you to read it all. I’ve been meaning to post it since I read it last week — it’s the most important piece of information for this election (and future elections) that I’ve seen.
After the 2012 election we learned about Obama’s database that enabled him to turn out so many unlikely voters that he won the election even though Romney was favored by the moderates and independents. (We’ll comment on Romney’s failure farther down in this post.)
The conventional wisdom says that a candidate has to move to the center for the election. CATALIST changes that strategy, and it also explains why Democrats and liberals in general have become even more rabidly extreme in the last few years.
Briefly, the database has unbelievable amounts of information on every voter. Its users can dice and slice the data on the electorate to come up with very specialized issues that can be used to motivate voters to get to the polls. Here’s an example from the article:
During the 2012 election, a producer for a conservative news network received a knock at his door in a key swing state. Two neighbors were standing on his stoop campaigning for Obama. They weren’t there to talk to him — they were there to talk to his wife. They knew that she was employed in a profession which the Obama campaign had decided to microtarget: folks who deliver services to special needs children. The two neighbors were already armed with this personalized information. The Obama campaign didn’t just send a direct mail piece to the target or make a telephone call. Instead, the campaign matched a microtargeted demographic (special needs service providers) with a highly motivated Obama volunteer in close neighborly proximity to the target. Then they armed the neighbor/volunteer with data to visit the target.
So the Democrats don’t have to move to the center. They can motivate the leftists voters and microtarget enough other voters to win an election. That’s also why their issues seem so weird sometimes. Contraception? When did that become an issue? When the Dems realized they could motivate a lot of women with it. It’s not a real issue; it’s manufactured out of the way their strategy works. That kind of strategy is disastrous for our country and our politics: It avoids the real issues that people should be informed on and that matter to our future in favor of petty and special-interest concerns. Adams goes on:
The best the GOP has done to mimic this event is to give “walk and knock” lists to volunteers who are not from the neighborhood, and certainly not armed with particular messaging. Or, the GOP bothers the target with telephone calls or a direct mail campaign containing at best a whiff of microtargeting.
He points out that Democrats always share data and work together towards their goal, whereas Republicans are jealous of their lists, their data, and their knowledge. It’s this sharing that has enabled CATALIST to be built and used to such stunning effect.
One more point from the article (though there are lots more important points): Many, perhaps most Republican candidates have ignored their conservative base, figuring they have them in the bag and they just need to go after the middle. Adams pointed out that Romney wouldn’t even go on conservative talk radio.
If this was ever a good strategy, it’s not good now, especially in the face of CATALIST. Romney failed to motivate conservatives because he thought he didn’t need to. I don’t know if he actually said “they have nowhere else to go,” but other Republicans have, and it’s so contemptuous it makes me cringe. Also, it’s false. They don’t have to vote Republican; they can stay home or, for a few, vote for a third party. Many analysts think that if these conservatives had come out to vote, Romney would now be president.
Republicans at all levels of government simply have to realize that moderating their positions — or ignoring some issues completely — in search of an elusive middle is a recipe for failure. They could start “microtargeting” right now, here in Maryland. Go get all the unregistered hunters to register, for a start, and send gun owners a special mailing. Then go speak at some local gun groups. Or say something that would motive home schoolers. Or find Democrats who are concerned about crime. (Ha, that’s being done.) In this case I don’t mean “they” could. I mean Larry Hogan’s campaign should be looking at this kind of thing, but in every state and locality there are easy ways to find uninvolved potential voters, even if the national party never catches up to the Democrats in big data. Just stop listening to the consultants who have run so many losing campaigns and talk to some local people instead.
I’m not clear whether the Democrats are using CATALIST in the upcoming elections. In close races I don’t know why they wouldn’t. So I’m now skeptical of the Republican leads in the polls for Senate candidates. And I wouldn’t be surprised if Anthony Brown were benefiting from the CATALIST data — the national Dems are paying attention to our governor race now that Hogan is showing such strength.
NOTE: Here’s what the Republicans are doing to compete with CATALIST. I have no idea if this will be effective or not. At my low grassroots level I don’t think I’ve seen any indication of its existence. Or I might have seen something, but it was pretty rudimentary. But since the majority of Americans are conservatives or moderates, maybe Republicans need a different approach altogether.