A Primer for Rich Donors Who Got Taken to the Cleaners by Republican Consultants
When consultants told rich donors who were funding them that they were not making money off the Super PAC’s that the rich idiots . . . er . . . donors funded, they were being honest. They probably were not.But ad heavy Super PACs outsourced the ad buys, the mail, the data collection, etc. to other groups that got commissions and you can be sure that a lot of these supposedly noble consultants working for free were making a killing off of commissions, referral fees, etc. through their relationships with the commissioned vendors doing the actual work. Read this old post of mine for a sampling of how these consultants can make money without actually making money.Just as important as making money for these guys was control over the data. In fact, in singular importance this campaign season has been the buzz word “data.” But what the hell is that data and why is it so important?Well, for starters, let me fill you in on one piece of technology that flew under the radar this season. It is called Gravity and it is probably the only major piece of campaign technology to come out of 2012 with a proven track record. About the only major donor on the right to have come into contact with it was Joe Ricketts. And Ricketts only came into contact with it because he was smart enough to direct Ending Spending, his group, to work with existing, small groups on the ground. About the only major group to use it was FreedomWorks, which, unlike a lot of other big groups on the right, decided not to go proprietary, but to go for winning at all costs. [See update in the next paragraph regarding Heritage Action for America]It was the existing small groups like American Majority Action and the Madison Project using Gravity primarily and those groups were instrumental in its creation. With the exception of FreedomWorks, virtually everybody else went out to build their own thing. In fact, several of the very well known consultants as seen on TV and others you never see did their best to kill Gravity, stop it from being built, and convince donors who came into contact with it to defund the groups or pressure those groups to move away from Gravity. [UPDATE: I’m told Heritage Action for America joined FreedomWorks as two of the only major groups to use Gravity.]Gravity, in fact, explains a lot about how the donors got so screwed in much the same way the RNC screwed itself with Voter Vault. To understand Gravity, you rich donors need a basic primer. You may think you know this stuff, but I bet you really don’t. Let me break it down for you.Of the 100% of Americans who exist, about 66% are eligible to vote. These are all rough estimates.40% are actually registered to vote.25% of the total American population will probably, actually go vote.Therefore, a candidate needs 13% of the population to win.But, and this is a big but, of the 25% of the population that can and does vote, 9% will vote straight Democrat usually and 8% will vote straight Republican.That leaves 8% left.2% of that 8% of people will be single issue voters. Of that 2%, most of the single issue voters will tilt slightly to the GOP on issues of guns or abortion, but there are also single issue pro-choice voters, single issue anti-gun voters, single issue gay rights voters, etc.That all leaves 6% of the population. In other words, to win an election, a candidate must really get 4% of the population to support him because that is the majority of the undecided 6%. A Republican must get a bit more, but then can draw from single issue voters a bit more than Democrats.Those percentages are the foundation of the data. But the data is more complicated than that.To win a campaign, a campaign must win a state or a lesser division of a state.Each state is broken down into congressional districts. Each congressional district covers parts or all of counties or, in Louisiana, parishes. Each county is further divided in precincts. Each precinct is divided into census tracts.A campaign can determine a pretty solid estimate of how many votes it needs to win by going down to the precinct of each county in America.Every precinct has a “dead dog” race that defines who the yellow dog Democrats are and who the pure Republicans are. These are the voters for either side who will vote for the dead dog over someone in the other party. A great example of this would be Angela E. Speir in Georgia. Ms. Speir ran for the Georgia Public Service Commission as a Republican in 2002, when Democrats still controlled Georgia. She spent roughly $7,000.00 for this statewide office and won. For a long time, her race was the dead dog race. If someone wanted to see what a generic Republican and a generic Democrat would get in a particular precinct, her race was the one to establish that number given it was a statewide race in which she had no name ID and spent less than $10,000.00.Find that number in each precinct for each party and that is the base number each side needs in a district.Now, take a comparable race to the one you are running. Let’s say the 2008 Presidential race for the 2012 Presidential race.First, population will have to be adjusted based on population growth or decline in registered voters in a precinct. Then start with the dead dog election numbers as a base of support and see how many votes Barack Obama and John McCain got in the precinct compared to that dead dog election. The variance from the dead dog election gets the margin of persuadable voters for 2012.If, for example, the dead dog election established that 5,000 voters will always vote Democrat no matter what and Barack Obama got 8,000 votes in the precinct, then there are probably 3,000 persuadable voters in 2012.Factor in new voters in the precinct whose voting history is not known, newly registered voters, etc. and suddenly you have a number. That number is the number of persuadable voters in the district beyond the base of the party you are working with. Those are the people volunteers must reach out to.But how to reach out to them?Well, one great way to start is consumer information. Does the person subscribe to Field & Streams? If so, probably an outdoorsman. Check NRA memberships. If both line up, you probably have a persuadable who leans GOP. The same works on the other side. Take the voter data, lay consumer data and direct voter contact information on top, and suddenly the job of winning a campaign becomes very manageable. There is a defined, quantifiable list of voters to reach out to, keep up with, and track toward Election Day. More importantly, you will know what issues will resonate best with that persuadable voter.That, my rich friends, is the data.And every damn thing you fund should be targeted at collecting that data.That is what Gravity did and does. That is why so many rich Republican consultants tried and are trying still to kill it. Why?Because the folks behind Gravity chose not to control the data. All the consultants want to control the data. That is where they make the money. If they control the data, they are in charge. Again, go read this from January of 2009.See, my rich friends, you think you are in charge. But go ask your Super PAC friends where the data is. Tell them you want the data. More importantly, ask them how they did the layers for the data. Did they layer consumer information on top of voter data or the opposite? Surprisingly, you can get completely different results putting voter data on top of consumer data, instead of adding consumer data to a known, quantifiable pool of voters. The latter is more accurate, saves time, and is what the Obama team did that the GOP largely did not do. It is what the Democrats did with their Catalist program.Instead, you rich donors funded a bunch of Super PACs that spent a lot of money on ads, making killer commissions for the ad guys, did a lot of mail that made killer commissions for the mail guys, and did a lot of technology smoke and mirror baloney that made you feel like you were reaching persuadable, when really you were peeing money down a rat hole.You got played.Now I’ve just explained how to do real voter outreach to you. Now I’ve explained what the real data is and why it is so valuable. There are groups out there like Gravity doing this with smart donors and giving it to Tea Party groups so everyone can use the data, instead of setting up some consultant to be the king maker and power broker.So rich guy, you want to win or you want to be the gate keeper? Right now, you are a gate keeper and you aren’t even keeping your money. Time to do better. Time to understand what the data is and that you want it collected, but not hordes if you want to win.I don’t make a penny off Gravity, have no business relationship to anyone affiliated with Gravity, but I know the guys involved and I know they did it right, I know it worked well, and I know many of the very same consultants you rich guys funded tried to kill Gravity because it would end the consultants’ monopoly on the real data.