July 25, 2005


Parties Are Tracking Your Habits: Though both Democrats and Republicans collect personal information, the GOP's mastery of data is changing the very nature of campaigning. (Tom Hamburger and Peter Wallsten, July 24, 2005, LA Times)

At first glance, Felicia Hill seems to fit the profile of a loyal Democrat: She is African American, married to a General Motors union worker and voted for Dukakis, Clinton and Gore in past presidential elections.

But in the weeks before election day 2004, the suburban mother of two was deluged with telephone calls, invitations and specially targeted mailings urging her to support President Bush.

The intense Republican courtship of Hill, 39, was no coincidence.

A deeper look at her lifestyle and politics reveals a voter who might be persuaded to switch sides. Among the clues: she is a church member uneasy about abortion; she lives in a growing suburb and she sent her children to a private school.

Hill and millions of other would-be Bush backers in closely contested states were identified by a GOP database that culled information ranging from the political basics, like party registration, to the personal, such as the cars they drive, the drinks they buy, even the features they order on their phone lines. The "micro-targeting" effort was so effective that the party credited it with helping to secure Bush's reelection.

In Ohio, which tipped the election to Bush, the Republican strategy helped boost African American support for the president by seven percentage points over his 2000 performance, securing the state for the president. It drew millions of Republican voters to the polls in every battleground state.

Nationally, Republicans said, the targeting produced a 10 percentage point increase for Bush among evangelicals, nine points among Latinos, four points in big cities, three points in labor-union households and five points among Catholics — all groups that were wooed by both parties.

Both parties have long collected information on voters. But the sophistication of the GOP effort is now so clearly superior that it has given Republicans an edge in an area that had been a Democratic strength: identifying sympathetic voters and getting them to the polls.

Democrats will be especially vulnerable in the next two national election cycles: In 2006, they will have to defend more congressional and Senate seats than they did in 2004; and several states viewed as competitive in past presidential elections are increasingly viewed as GOP turf for 2008.

Hill said the campaign outreach effort had such an effect on her that she was unable to decide who to vote for until she was in the booth. She ultimately chose Democratic Sen. John F. Kerry over Bush. But Hill said she was now open to Republican arguments in a way she never was before.

For the first time, she sees the GOP as a place where black women can be comfortable

"I saw people I could relate to," she said, describing conversations she had with Republican professional women during telephone outreach calls and at party events. During one campaign event in Dayton, the president was introduced by Hill's friend Donald K. McLaurin, the black mayor of suburban Trotwood.

"I saw families there who seemed like our family, and I found that their ideology lined up with mine," she said.

Such sentiments signal progress for the Republican Party as it seeks to achieve the goal set by White House strategist Karl Rove of building a majority that will last well into the 21st century.

Posted by Orrin Judd at July 25, 2005 11:22 AM

Republicans use technology to build support from the inside out. It's not an overlay or a transaction. This confounds the Dems, who are still trying to bribe supporters.

Posted by: Luciferous at July 25, 2005 11:42 AM

The last 2 decades of developments in marketing seem to have eluded the Democrats. But then so have the last 5 decades of economic history.

Posted by: bart at July 25, 2005 12:42 PM

Simply amazing.

Posted by: AML at July 25, 2005 2:46 PM

Hmmm, of course, MA and SF forcing homosexual marriage down the country's throat didn't hurt either.

And neither did Nixon's Silent Majority, over 60s turned out higher than expected.

Posted by: Sandy P at July 25, 2005 4:28 PM

In order to make a sale, however, you've got to have the goods to sell. People are not quick to switch loyalties and certainly need a good reason.

How would, say, the Democrats find a consistent Republican voter who is shaky on the Patriot act and willing to vote for a scummy guy like Kerry in any sort of marketing data? They drive a Volvo? Or what?

The Dems best hope would be shaky libertarians, but how many of them are there? And when are the Dems ever going to cut taxes or get strong on defense, which would seem like trumping issues to them?

Posted by: Randall Voth at July 26, 2005 6:33 AM

The Democrats already got the League of Women Voters types, upper middle class sucker moms.

Right now, their best hope is Republican failure, either by caving too far to the Religious Right(Bush's proposed veto of stem cell research funding has them dancing the hora at the DNC), or by being stooges for Big Business at the expense of entrepreneurs.(Steel Tariffs, sugar price supports)

Posted by: bart at July 26, 2005 8:35 AM

Every time the GOP moves further to the Right it does better, even as folks like you claim it will ruin them. Your ideal Republicans -- Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, George H.W. Bush -- were all disasters.

Posted by: oj at July 26, 2005 9:48 AM

Nixon, Ford and Old Bush were stooges for Big Business at the expense of entrepreneurs. Just look at what they did with affirmative action, the tax code and giveaways to big contributors.

The correct model for your argument is Reagan, who was associated with but not beholden to the religious right and for all the yelping from the Hollywood Left governed no more than about 1 standard deviation to the right of the national center on social and cultural issues. His tax-cutting, growth-company oriented economic policy was anathema to the go-along get-along GOP like Old Bush, Tricky Dick, the Brain Dead Zombie of K Street, the Guy Who Couldn't Fart and Chew Gum at the same Time, and all the other losers the GOP apparat, at the behest of the scumbags who run the Fortune 500, foists on Americans all the time.

Americans won't elect Savanarola, no matter how much you may want them to.

Posted by: bart at July 26, 2005 12:11 PM

But all three took your happy middle on social issues, not least affirmative action.

Reagan was, and was accurately portrayed in the media as, a fundamentalist Christian of millenarian views, though, like W, he was perfectly capable of compromise to get things done.

Posted by: oj at July 26, 2005 12:18 PM

Reagan was a fundamentalist but he knew that he was elected by a nation made up mostly of people who aren't.

It was the Nixon Administration that gave us racial quotas, hardly a down-the-middle position when you consider that Humphrey opposed quotas. Ford merely continued whatever Nixon was doing, since it probably took him until he lost to Carter to figure out how to get into the Oval Office. Nelson Rockefeller was the de facto President then and he was the echt-liberal Republican. Old Bush was simply a low-budget Rockefeller.

Posted by: bart at July 26, 2005 3:24 PM


He was elected by a nation of people who understood him to be seeking the Final Showdown with the Soviets.

Posted by: oj at July 26, 2005 3:30 PM