September 18th, 2012
Update: check out this great Financial Times behind-the-scenes article about Obama’s field outreach, voter data and microtargeting.
Mitt Romney’s mouth isn’t the only thing making the Obama team “cautiously confident” about the outcome of November’s election: they can also count on the grassroots voter data they’ve spent months painstakingly collecting:
The Romney camp seems to be hoping for a big, late break of undecided voters his way. But Dems remain convinced they understand who these voters are and what motivates them better than the Romney team does — and don’t see a way that these voters break to Romney in large enough numbers to overcome a two or three point deficit in the key battlegrounds.
Dems believe that there are fewer than three million true undecided voters in the battlegrounds who will decide the outcome; Dems think they are disproportionately made up of independent women and college educated men under 40 who are also independents — two groups that simply won’t break towards Romney in overwhelming numbers, given the Dem campaign’s emphasis on women’s issues, and core differences between the two candidates over issues that matter to college educated voters.
We’ve been talking about the potential of Obama’s rebuilt grassroots field operation here for a year, and now we’re seeing some of its first fruits: just as in 2008, the data his field teams collect gives his campaign a much clearer picture of what’s happening on the ground than his opponents, helping his team make strategic choices about how to allocate resources (of course, always assuming that the data is accurate!).
In the most-recent TechBytes column I talked about field organizing not being in the Republicans’ blood this election cycle, and the power of data to drive decision-making is yet another example of why a strong ground game matters. We’ll see how truly decisive a voter turnout tool it can be starting in just a few weeks, when early/absentee voting begins in crucial states. My suspicion is that Romney’s pretty much toast by this point — he couldn’t manage a lead in the polls all summer, and the conventions and the last couple of weeks of campaigning have been truly terrible for him — so I’ll be watching to see if Obama’s machine can help Democrats win enough marginal House and Senate races to capture Congress. Four more years of divided government as petty and bitter as the last two? THAT we can do without.