Trump Doesn’t Win: Cus He Screws Up the Data, Duh
By the time his campaign began investing in voter data and targeting analytics, his rivals for the GOP nomination — particularly Iowa winner Ted Cruz and third-place finisher Marco Rubio — had spent millions building sophisticated voter-targeting machines. Trump’s campaign lacked the voter-targeting and turnout capabilities to translate a 7-point polling lead[1
How Trump let himself get out-organized
For months, Donald Trump’s allies urged him to invest in the technology necessary to identify and mobilize his supporters, sources close to Trump’s campaign told POLITICO, but the billionaire barely budged, apparently believing his star power would provide a new way to mobilize voters.
By the time his campaign began investing in voter data and targeting analytics, his rivals for the GOP nomination had spent millions building sophisticated voter-targeting machines.
Trump’s campaign lacked the voter-targeting and turnout capabilities to translate a 7-point polling lead…Cruz and Rubio’s campaigns ran circles around Trump’s bare-bones operation, which gambled that Trump’s star appeal could overpower modern organizing tactics, and relied instead on big rallies, an outlandish social media presence, a flashy endorsement from Sarah Palin and a late advertising blitz to try to get supporters to the polls.
Trump’s backers maintain that the most painful part of his loss to Cruz, by a 3.3-percentage-point margin, is that it never should have happened. Trump actually won the battle for supporters, they believe, especially among nontraditional Republican voters, but he lacked the tools to get them to participate in Iowa’s Byzantine caucus system. As a result, a candidate who could have been vaulted into New Hampshire with huge momentum on top of an impressive polling lead is instead looking shrunken and chastened.
Trump’s staff “got outclassed and outmaneuvered ― the Iowa team simply didn’t have the tools they needed, which is why they overpromised and underperformed,”…
On the ground in Iowa last month, Trump’s operation showed signs of disorganization and acrimony as it faced mounting doubts about its ability to identify and mobilize its high numbers of previously disengaged supporters and to persuade more traditional, but undecided, Republicans to caucus for Trump.
And some Trump allies were openly expressing doubts about the largely self-funding Trump’s willingness to pay for data analytics…high-level statistical analyses and “unglamorous political grunt work.”…
At one point early in the campaign, Trump representatives talked to Cambridge Analytica ― the firm now being credited with engineering Cruz’s cutting-edge targeting operation ― about retaining the company’s services, but they decided it was too expensive. (Dum)
Through the end of last year, the period covered by the most recent Federal Election Commission filings, Trump’s campaign had spent only about $560,000 on data-related costs, compared with at least $3.6 million for Cruz…By contrast, the Trump campaign has spent at least $1.4 million on rally-related expenses and $1.2 million on hats ― presumably mostly for the now-iconic hats bearing Trump’s campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again.”
The campaign’s lackadaisical data effort is seen in some quarters as coming down to Trump’s lack of willingness to use his own cash on something that’s seen as essential in modern-day presidential politics. “Trump’s a businessman,” said Joe Rospars, who served as a chief digital strategist to President Barack Obama’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns. “He’s not going to spend any more money than he has to, and he made his bet.”
Meanwhile, the data teams working on Cruz’s campaign and a network of supportive super PACs were getting a lot of credit for their role in boosting the Texas senator to victory.
The Cruz campaign data team ― internally dubbed the Oorlog project, named after the Afrikaner word for ‘war’ ― includes four full-time data scientists as well as employees from Cambridge Analytica, who have been embedded in the campaign’s Houston headquarters. The company, which is owned by one of Cruz’s biggest donors, worked with both the campaign and a network of linked super PACs to identify Cruz supporters and persuadable voters using what it called “psychographic” profiles culled from social media, and commercial and political data.
Not only are the data expensive, it’s costly to use them effectively.
The super PACs hired 10 canvassers and recruited dozens of volunteers to go door-to-door to contact people in Iowa whose Cambridge Analytica profiles suggested they were supportive of Cruz or could be persuaded to be.
Typically, the so-called match rate on such calculations is about 50 percent, said Drew Ryun, who runs the field operation for the umbrella super PAC, Keep the Promise PAC.
“Cambridge Analytica’s match rate was 70 percent of people who they said were leaning towards Cruz or were actually supporting Cruz,” said Ryun. “For all the talk over the last few years about the right being behind on voter ID and targeting, we’re experiencing a quantum leap forward right now.”
His group, which had been knocking on doors in Iowa for more than three months leading up the caucuses, has around 50 canvassers on the ground in upcoming states including South Carolina, Louisiana, Alabama, Oklahoma, Kansas and Missouri. “Retail politics doesn’t happen overnight,” said Ryun. “It’s months and months of work.”
The Cruz campaign, meanwhile, used the voter profiles to shape its strategies for everything from television ad buys to telephone banks and door knocks. It built a list of more than 9,000 Iowans who were still on the fence between their candidate and Trump. The team divided the undecided voters ― who were heavily evangelical and 91 percent male ― into more than 150 different subgroups based off ideology, religion and personality type, Wilson said. It used Facebook experiments to determine which issues jazzed up their voters the most.
Rubio’s campaign, meanwhile, relied on a 22-person data war room — for Iowa and beyond — out of an 11th-floor suite of a downtown Washington office building near Metro Center. The analytics shop is stocked with Red Bull and a beer keg, a nacho cheese machine and an Xbox.
The campaign paid $750,000 to the company called 0ptimus to assist in the data operation. Its leader, Scott Tranter, answers directly to Rubio campaign manager Terry Sullivan. Tranter’s team prides itself on having internal models showing that Rubio had more than 20 percent support from Iowan Republicans with a potential turnout scenario to surpass Trump for second place, much better than the final Des Moines Register poll, which had him with 15 percent support behind both Cruz and a leading Trump.
Now, coming out of Iowa, the Rubio and Cruz campaigns are recalibrating their models and data sets to take into account a weakened Trump.
“Our probability scores are obsolete after last night,” said Wilson, Cruz’s analytics and polling director. “Everything changes as the campaign dynamics shift.”
Meanwhile, Trump has left many Republicans stumped as to the whereabouts of basic campaign infrastructure built off a solid data core, including targeted online ads and phone calls to GOP voters who have participated in past primaries.
Still, the advantages of the superior data operations of Cruz and Rubio will be tested in next week’s New Hampshire primary. Polls taken before Iowa showed Trump with a commanding 20-point lead. And the state’s primary rules, which allow independents to participate, can be a major wild card, as is the turnout, which is far greater than for Iowa’s caucuses ― a potential advantage for Trump — but also a source of volatility.