The Republican digital divide — in 1 chart

February 19, 2013

Robert Draper has an excellent (and long) piece in this weekend's New York Times magazine detailing the growing concerns among young Republican strategists that the party is hopelessly antiquated in terms of technology and making few real strides to address that problem.


AFP/Getty photo

The story makes clear that the establishment of the party -- as represented by the Republican National Committee -- is increasingly regarded within some circles as a blockade to where the GOP needs to head when it comes to trying to sell itself to a younger generation of Americans.

(One amazing example of this GOP brand problem: In a focus group of 20-something women, Republican pollster Kristen Soltis Anderson asked them to say the first thing that came to mind about the GOP. Among the responses: “Corporate greed”, "Old”, “Middle-aged white men”, “Rich” “Rigid”, “Not progressive”, “Polarizing”, “Stuck in their ways", “Farmers". Oomph.)

While some of the RNC's critics seem to put too much emphasis on how technology can save them -- technology seems more like a means to an end than an end in itself to the GOP's problems -- it is striking how much Republicans in 2012 appeared to be trying to re-run the 2008 campaign while the Obama team had moved on to the next big thing.

Nothing illustrates that fact better than this chart from the Obama digital team detailing spending between the two campaigns in 2008 and 2012.

What's clear from the charts above is that the Romney team was fighting the last war, politically speaking.  While they were able to come within shouting distance among digital staff, the Obama team smashed Romney when it came to analyzing the data.

The danger for Republicans, technologically speaking, is that in playing catch-up they continue to fall further behind. What's needed is a way to leapfrog Democrats technologically heading into 2016. Of course, that's far easier said than done.

Chris Cillizza writes “The Fix,” a politics blog for the Washington Post. He also covers the White House.
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Sean Sullivan · February 19, 2013