Minnesota Republicans use data-focused approach for 2018 campaigns

The Republican National Committee is making a big data push to win in Minnesota.

The Democrats have led the way in using voter data to drive elections, but after President Barack Obama won reelection in 2012, Republicans have invested $200 million into building their own voter data file.

For the first time, they are using that data to help Republicans in Minnesota.

The campaign event for Republican Congressman Erik Paulsen this weekend was more than the usual door knocking. With each home Paulsen and his supporters visited, they conducted micro-surveys of voters.

The results are then fed to a massive GOP data base managed in part by a lone guy on the computer.

That man is Prentice Eager and what knows is now in a Republican National Committee big data file.

It’s a mashup of the Minnesota voter file and consumer purchasing data gathered for every Minnesota voter.

“We take that and do statistical modeling, what we call RNC voter scores,” said Eager, the RNC’s regional data director. “And they can predict anything from likelihood to support a Republican candidate, to likelihood to turnout to likelihood to support a certain issue like second amendment, or pro-life or pro-choice.” 

 This is all critical marketing data because, with this information, the Republican Party is able to tell its candidates out in the field to make sure that they talk to this home, but skip the next two houses, but make sure that you talk to the folks four doors down.

It doesn’t apply just to door knocking, but to direct mail and digital advertising, too.

“We can look at the electorate in a big picture way,” said Christiana Purves, the RNC’s regional communications director. “We can zoom in and narrow down into the specific amount of voters that maybe a campaign needs to talk to in order to win in November and a specific amount of individuals that they might need to persuade.”

That could make a critical difference in the outcome of tight congressional races like Paulsen’s.

“What we’re seeing already in the polling is that 15 to 20 percent of Minnesota voters have not made up their mind,” said Humphrey School of Public Affairs’ Larry Jacobs. “Well, the real battle here is to find those voters and to get your message in front of them.  Big data helps you do that.”

Welcome to the future of political campaigning.

“Corporations have made that clear too, that this is what works,” said Eager. “We’re doing the same thing that Amazon or Facebook or Coca-Cola does with targeting their consumers. Our consumers are the voters.”