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Obama's GOTV and voter identification was about a whole lot more than hustle. It was about research, the scientific method, and scholarly expertise. You know, "pointy-headed intellectuals"? According to a Sasha Issenberg Slate article "A Vast Left-Wing Competency", Obama's team harnessed a whole lot of brain power like no campaign before, and it points to yet another long-term, demographic advantage for Democrats.

What Issenberg describes is how Democrats have successfully countered Rove's use of consumer data analysis techniques, techniques businesses use to identify and target different sectors of the customer base, and to find and win over new customers. Those techniques were a big help enabling the Republicans to win an election in 2004 that at first glance they should have lost.

But those techniques weren't exactly secrets, and Democrats would master them quickly.

Following their 2004 loss, Democrats found it relatively easy to catch up with Republicans in the analysis of individual consumer data for voter targeting. By 2006, Democrats were at least at parity when it came to statistical modeling techniques, and they were exploring ways to integrate them with other modes of political data analysis.
But not all pollsters are cut from the same cloth. Whereas those on the Republicans side were mostly former political consultants, the Democrats drew from a different demographic:
Those who went into the polling business on the left were political consultants, too, but many of them also possessed serious scholarly credentials and had derailed promising academic careers to go into politics. Now that generation—Stan Greenberg, Celinda Lake, Mark Mellman, Diane Feldman, among others—preside over firms that see themselves not only as vendors of a stable set of campaign services but patrons of methodological innovation. When microtargeting tools made it possible to analyze the electorate as a collection of individuals rather than merely demographic and geographic subgroups, many of the most established Democratic pollsters in Washington invested in developing expertise in this new approach. Their Republican rivals, by contrast, tended to see the new tools as a threat to their business model.
In other words, we have the PHds on our side. The Democrats, when they needed research done, turned to people actually trained to do real research -- political scientists, behavioral psychologists, mathematicians -- anyone with real and useful expertise. The Republicans do focus groups -- the Democrats do "randomized-control experiments, used in the social sciences to address elusive questions about voter behavior."

And this is where demographics come in to it. The right is always complaining about how the universities are bastions of leftism indoctrinating our students, explaining of course why every college graduate is a Socialist. But that, it seems, is not the real threat. Yes, it's true -- the academic tribe definitely leans left. Not entirely, but strongly. In voting numbers, it's a small demographic, but through expertise they can have an outsize influence.

And it's one more demographic group that the Republicans have gone out of their way to alienate, attacking "inconvenient truths," attacking teachers, slashing Pell grants, slashing universities, and celebrating know-nothingness. And because of this, they are going to have a hard time replicating what the Democrats have done here. The "pointy-headed intellectuals" noticed someone was trying to stomp on them, and have turned the tables but good.

9:08 PM PT: Hmm, seems my link is messed up. See chimene in the comments for a working link.

9:09 PM PT: Hmm, seems my link doesn't work. See chimene in the comments for a working link.

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Comment Preferences

  •  As Rick Santorum helpfully reminded us... (12+ / 0-)
    In other words, we have the PHds on our side.
    ...the Republicans "are never going to get the smart people."

    "The ignorant mind, with its infinite afflictions, passions, and evils, is rooted in the three poisons. Greed, anger, and delusion." - Bodhidharma

    by hopesprings on Thu Nov 08, 2012 at 11:26:01 AM PST

  •  Great diary... (11+ / 0-)

    And it has become apparent that 'create our own reality' is the core of the GOP, not just a slogan.  They honestly believed Rmoney would win in a landslide.  There marketing folks - which passed for their intellectual base, kept telling them that 'the intangibles' are on their side.  Sandy is just a convenient excuse.  They will keep repeating their insanity until there is nobody left to believe them.

    Hillary Rodham Clinton/Julian Castro - 2016

    by RichM on Thu Nov 08, 2012 at 11:30:21 AM PST

  •  Great idea. We need find ways to fund more (9+ / 0-)

    ongoing think tanks, grass-roots organizing, ways of maintaining our momentum and success in this election.

    I just read a story about Republican funders saying they are going to switch from funding ads, to funding "grass roots" organizing like we Democrats have done.

    He doesn't seem to get that "grass-roots" organizing is the opposite of top-down hierarchically funded Republican imitations which is more correctly called "astro-turfing."

    My understanding is that Karl Rove is having a conference call even as we speak on this vary topic.

    His funders are asking "what did we get for our $390 million spent on CrossRoads."  One suggested "nothing."  Karl Rove is explaining his new plan now which I'm looking for leaks about.

    The means is the ends in the process of becoming. - Mahatma Gandhi

    by HoundDog on Thu Nov 08, 2012 at 11:30:29 AM PST

  •  Republican brain drain (9+ / 0-)

    Explains Paul Ryan's popularity. He's the closest thing they have to an intellectual. They give him a Powerpoint presentation and he thinks it's a PhD.

    The sad thing is, this election exposed Ryan for the lightweight he is. He's had months to make the case for his economic vision. But when pressed, he "didn't have time" to go through the numbers. He abruptly ended interviews because reporters were "putting words in his mouth." He isn't actually prepared to defend his ideas, which even undergraduate academics do on a daily basis.

    Democrats attract people who love knowledge and seek out truth. Republicans attract people who are scared of change and can't handle uncomfortable realities.

  •  very important (4+ / 0-)

    Not only is our message likely to attract the faster growing demographic groups, but we are starting to understand how to squeeze out more of the juice from our orange.


    We've gone from being a center right country to a center left one, and I feel very optimistic that we are going to keep on going in this direction for some time to come.

    •  Great read, thanks! (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      chantedor, whaddaya

      "Revenge of the Nerds" writ LARGE :) Couldn't help but think that when I saw Nate Silver talking to Jon Stewart last night.

      Absolutely excellent way to "restore our democracy," as the president repeatedly said in his stump speech. And oddly reminiscent of dreams 20 years ago about using the Internet to enhance democracy in the U.S. Lots of academics and geeks of all stripes were online in those paleo-days.

      What a difference a generation makes!

      That data-driven decision-making played a huge role in creating a second term for the 44th President and will be one of the more closely studied elements of the 2012 cycle. It’s another sign that the role of the campaign pros in Washington who make decisions on hunches and experience is rapidly dwindling, being replaced by the work of quants and computer coders who can crack massive data sets for insight. As one official put it, the time of “guys sitting in a back room smoking cigars, saying ‘We always buy 60 Minutes’” is over. In politics, the era of big data has arrived.

      "Let each unique song be sung and the spell of differentiation be broken" - Winter Rabbit

      by cotterperson on Thu Nov 08, 2012 at 12:17:41 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Our model (8+ / 0-)

    is going to be hard for them to duplicate because the bases are completely different.

    Our base is there, we have a very accepting platform (thus liberal, amazing how this became a bad word with asses like Rush say it).  Accordingly we will always appeal to more people.  The goal is to maintain exposure to that base and motivate that base to vote.  Because unlike their base (which is more lunatic fringe) which is very motivated to vote and very vocal.  Whether it's fear of losing their religious mandates, paying a few bucks in taxes, having the military cut, they are very motivated by their fears.

    So a grass roots effort to an already motivated base is pointless.  We have larger numbers so if we motivate we win.

    For them the issue isn't going to be about getting to and moving their base to be competitive, they are going to have to redefine their base.  They've excluded far too many people from their base.  They don't fail because they can't reach their base, they fail because the numbers are against them.

    •  And that ship may have sailed (6+ / 0-)

      Traditionally, when white racists have been pushed against the wall, they've just redefined "white." A hundred years or so ago, Italians, Irish, East Europeans were not really part of the club. But when it became impossible to dominate the country with Northern and Northwestern Europeans alone (minus the Irish), little by little the club was expanded.

      Recently, some more savvy Republicans wanted to tap the Latino population to fill the gap, but they couldn't keep the lid on their more flamboyant bigots. And they may have lost that chance for good.

      Conservatives believe evil comes from violating rules. Liberals believe evil comes from violating each other.

      by tcorse on Thu Nov 08, 2012 at 11:59:19 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I went to UCLA yesterday for a Global Warming... (11+ / 0-)

    ...lecture by Dr. Andrew Weaver.  I will diary about this lecture as soon as he sends me the PowerPoint.

    Bottom line, the disconnect between science and Republicans in this subject matter is astonishing.

    It seems Republicans have a genetic issue with scientific truth.

    In another time and place they would have prosecuted Galileo.

    Daily Kos an oasis of truth. Truth that leads to action.

    by Shockwave on Thu Nov 08, 2012 at 11:43:45 AM PST

    •  Finance Is What Runs This Country and Finance (5+ / 0-)

      can make so much money so fast that climate change doesn't matter to its leadership. It will always be able to find the dwindling safe and pleasant places to live.

      The evangelicals are the serious anti-science wing, they're not capable of change. However they do have potential to flip on climate change because among the tiny fraction of scripture they accept, there are teachings about stewardship of the earth.

      We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

      by Gooserock on Thu Nov 08, 2012 at 12:04:13 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Those scientists who oppose doing something... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        cotterperson, whaddaya

        ...about global warming, according to DR. Weaver, ususally do it for religious reasons, "God would not let us destroy ourselves through anthropogenic global warming".

        Religion, Christianity primarily, has never gotten along with science.

        Daily Kos an oasis of truth. Truth that leads to action.

        by Shockwave on Thu Nov 08, 2012 at 12:12:01 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  I'm not convinced that (5+ / 0-)

    the intellectual imbalance in the campaigns is difficult to remedy for Republicans. Sure, most poll sci PhDs are Democrats (I am one, so I know the demographic well) -- but if we're talking about national-level campaigns, it only takes a few to make a difference. Remember that Rick Perry ran the most sophisticated gubernatorial campaign ever in 2006, employing 4 top political scientists to run fully randomized experiments on his resource allocation and GOTV efficacy. Had he not jumped up and down on his own dick in the 2012 primary, he no doubt would have called them back for the general election.

    Why was Romney so far behind the curve? Not sure. But it usually only takes one cycle for the other side to catch up (see 2004-06).

    Grew a mustache and a mullet / Got a job at Chick-Fil-A

    by cardinal on Thu Nov 08, 2012 at 11:54:17 AM PST

    •  A fair point (4+ / 0-)

      But having a deep bench matters. And empiricism really does run counter to the current GOP mentality. Maybe Tuesday's outcome will bring them back a little to reality, but the early signs are not good.

      Conservatives believe evil comes from violating rules. Liberals believe evil comes from violating each other.

      by tcorse on Thu Nov 08, 2012 at 12:06:04 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I agree. (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        tcorse, Pithy Cherub, chantedor, whaddaya

        And beyond just PhDs -- which again, I assure you there are enough mercenaries willing to work for Republicans for right price, especially in this horrible academic job market -- I think the bigger "shallow bench" problem is on the creative side. For example, Romney had a billion dollars, yet all of his yard signs looked homemade (and made me want to brush my teeth). There's a lot you can do in our high-tech, media-driven society when the creative class is on your side.

        Grew a mustache and a mullet / Got a job at Chick-Fil-A

        by cardinal on Thu Nov 08, 2012 at 12:26:31 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Hmmm, even accepting that premise, (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      cotterperson, cardinal, whaddaya

      the numbers are not on the republican side.  They have to fundamentally change stances on policy, PR and the People in order to expand their reach.  The PhDs that work on that side of the fence have no people generators, unless they annex Canada.

      Every time history repeats itself, the price goes up...East Wing Rules

      by Pithy Cherub on Thu Nov 08, 2012 at 12:10:13 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  And there are start-ups tying your purchases... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Neon Mama, whaddaya, cardinal

      ...(data from loyalty cards) to exposure from ads (data from facebook).

      If a start-up can quantify how an exposure to a frozen pizza ad impacted your buying habits, there's no reason why the GOP can't use this same technology in 2016.

      Why didn't Romney use the same technology? Don't know.  But if I had to bet, I'd say that many of Bain's portfolio companies are using Big Data right now in ways very similar to how Obama's team did.

      I give much more credit to Plouffe's decision to define Romney five months ago.  

      Learn about Centrist Economics, learn about Robert Rubin's Hamilton Project.

      by PatriciaVa on Thu Nov 08, 2012 at 01:02:37 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Their Ground Game Has Been Evangelicals, and (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tcorse, cotterperson, chantedor

    that was enough during the decades Democrats were blowing off our base to court conservative moderates from the Republicans.

    But as others are saying, our potential base is much bigger so if the Democrats are going to pitch to those who need progressive policy --which means at some point delivering breadbasket policies and not just human rights-- yes the Republicans are in a lot of trouble.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Thu Nov 08, 2012 at 12:00:10 PM PST

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