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POLITICS: PennAve

Top Democratic data firm innovates as Republicans play catch-up

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Politics,Democratic Party,2014 Elections,2016 Elections,David M. Drucker,Campaigns,PennAve,Technology,Data Mining

The leading progressive data firm is unveiling a host of digital innovations as the Democratic Party seeks to maintain its edge over Republicans in the competitive arena of targeting and turning out voters.

NGP VAN’s digital platform served as the basis for President Obama’s advanced get-out-the-vote programs in 2008 and 2012.

In announcing their first product overhaul since 2007, NGP VAN officials emphasized that they developed digital capabilities that even Obama’s much-lauded 2012 campaign team tried and failed to produce.

That, plus a newly minted partnership with the Democratic National Committee, has bolstered progressives’ confidence that they will continue to outpace Republicans on the digital front.

“I think it puts us another step ahead of them,” NGP VAN CEO Stu Trevelyan told the Washington Examiner. “The Republicans have a couple of challenges to even get to where we were in 2007.”

Obama’s advanced voter-turnout operation was credited with helping him win re-election in 2012 despite high unemployment and mediocre job approval ratings. Stung by the defeat, Republicans decided after the election that they had to match, if not exceed, the Democrats’ digital capabilities.

Since then, the Republican National Committee has invested tens of millions of dollars on its own program, with GOP data firms also innovating.

But NGP VAN is skeptical of Republican claims that the GOP is catching up to the Democrats and mitigating the party’s digital advantage. Speaking to a packed D.C. auditorium of progressive activists and consultants along with a live-streaming audience Wednesday evening, NGP VAN officials said the firm’s latest offerings would keep Democrats at the forefront of the digital voter micro-targeting that has proven crucial to winning elections.

The company’s new offerings include:

Apps. For all that it accomplished, the Obama campaign was not able to create a system that would allow approved individual users or groups to create their own applications so that they could customize how they interacted and utilized the campaign’s data. NGP VAN says it has solved that conundrum. NGP VAN calls it the “hub and spoke” model, with the firm’s data serving as the hub and individual users, groups and party committees now having the option of deciding how they use and access that data.

Logins. Democratic and progressive activists will now be able to create personal accounts with NGP VAN, so that they do not have to create a new login every time they join a new campaign or group. This personal login also will enable them to use all of the applications they access on the NGP VAN platform. Additionally, when a campaign volunteer logs in to perform duties like door-knocking or phone-banking, a campaign official will be able to know which voters that volunteer reached.

Almost every Democrat running for federal office, as well as the top labor unions and advocacy groups such as Ready For Hillary, which supports former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s assumed 2016 presidential candidacy, uses NGP VAN. That gives the Democrats an edge over the Republicans, who use various firms and are less likely to share the data they gather.

It also helps Democrats that their campaign volunteers and operatives are better versed in using digital tools to contact voters and make strategic campaign decisions — and more likely to do so.

By contrast, many Republicans only recently became aware of the importance of this aspect of running a campaign and many operatives and volunteers still don’t know how to take advantage of it.

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Author:

David M. Drucker

Senior Congressional Correspondent
The Washington Examiner

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