It may take years for the GOP to close the digital gap with Democrats
Simply put, the Democratic National Committee has nearly a decade’s jump — and counting — thanks to innovative software for gathering detailed voter information that includes input from Democratic campaigns at every level of the ballot. While Priebus and others repeatedly cite the technological superiority of the president’s campaign in particular, it’s unclear whether they realize the DNC itself has been building that information backbone prior to Obama’s first run.
The stakes are high. That information allowed Democrats in 2012 to identify likely voters and customize campaign messages for targeted groups — such as sending mailings about protecting reproductive rights to women under 40. In addition, they used the data to find new voters and ensure they get to the polls.
The DNC’s system, known as the Voter Activation Network, or the VAN, is a mammoth, ongoing database that has been tracking the interests, voting histories, family circumstances and much more on more than 150 million voters since 2006. That’s when then-DNC Chairman Howard Dean mandated that every state-level Democratic unit contribute to and have access to the same system, developing a powerful weapon that the GOP simply won’t match in the near term.
“Republicans have historically been a lot more selfish about their sharing of data and sharing of information,” said Vincent Harris, the 24-year-old GOP digital strategist who leveraged social media to put little-known Ted Cruz on his path to the Senate. “There’s no central hub. That integration is priceless, and that’s what [Priebus] needs to lead us on.”
Meanwhile, Harris warned, “Every day that goes by, we are getting further and further behind.”