A: Yes, from a thousand categories, and create a predicted individual likelihood of performance. The campaign will have a turnout score, for how often you have voted; a support score, for the percentage likelihood of whom you would support; a pro-choice score, etc., and those all are framed as probabilities out of 100.
Q: For each voter?
A: For 170 million people, yes, for the Obama campaign. And they have them for non-voters to determine whom they want to register. Now they can make a list of the people you want to register because they look like your kind of voters, and now they don’t have to stand outside a supermarket and wait for whomever comes along.
Q: Does the Romney campaign have this?
A: Yes, they structure it differently, but basically, everybody does this.
Q: What is your assessment of how these two campaigns are doing, side by side, in how they can exploit all this information they accumulated on people?
A: The Obama campaign is significantly ahead. I think we tend to underappreciate how radically different the reelection campaign is. We tend to look at it as, the advantage is you can send out the secretary of the interior to go out and give grants, and I don’t want to preclude that, but you also have four years to plan your budget, hire your staff, lay out a research agenda, and have all these local elections or uncontested primaries to muck around in.
Karl Rove in 2001 and 2002 could do testing for the 72-hour project [to get out the vote in the 2004 reelection campaign for President George W. Bush], and build in the structure. The Obama campaign built on what it learned in 2008.
It used to be that every one of those interviews that volunteers did went on the clipboard, and the clipboard went onto the file cabinet, and the file cabinet went into the dumpster and after Nov. 10 into the landfill. Now, it’s going on a Republican or Democratic party server forever.
Democratic candidates for years to come will benefit from the huge volume of contacts that the Obama campaign was able to make — whether Obama wins or loses in November.