As the primary race grinds on, the candidates are
turning to predictive analytics tools to help find voters ready to
A company called VisualCalc provides a free Web site that helps citizens
analyze the presidential race through a series of dashboards that chart the
status and trends of the primary election.
On the flip side, candidates in this year's historical race for the White
House-for the first time a woman and a black man are vying for the Democratic
Party nomination alongside a single presumptive Republican nominee-have similar
tools to provide information that may help them attract those key undecided
It's called microtargeting, and it's helping candidates like Sen. Barack
Obama determine a number of basic but essential variables as his campaign moves
from state to state and primary to primary, in a tooth-and-nail battle with
Sen. Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination.
The Obama campaign is working with Washington-based data analytics firm
Strategic Telemetry-a company that cut its teeth building voter data models for
Sen. John Kerry during the hard-fought 2004 presidential elections-to help determine
voter trends. It's a technological edge that could mean the difference between
winning and losing in a close election.
"It was an interesting buzzword in 2004. Now most people in politics
have heard of microtargeting and most people think it is something they have to
have in a campaign," said Ken Strasma, president and founder of Strategic
Telemetry. "In a close race it can definitely make the difference of a
couple percentage points."
While Strasma can't comment on the specifics of the Obama race-"It's
not a secret weapon if we talk about it," he said-there are a number of
basic questions predictive analytics tries to answer for any campaign. These
include how likely it is that a voter is undecided, what issues undecided
voters care about, how likely it is that a voter supports a certain candidate
and how likely it is that an individual will contribute if asked.
"In increasingly polarized elections it becomes harder and harder to
find undecided voters and to find issues voters are interested in," Strasma
"We were founded in 2003 to provide individual-level microtargeting for
Democratic campaigns and progressive and labor organizations. Our goal is to
bring the same type of technology used in the commercial world to the world of
politics, where efficiencies are really important."
The bottom line in political campaigns is that there's only so much money to
go around. Predictive analytics, its proponents say, is a way to help campaigns
target their funds toward the right voters-those who haven't decided to vote
for another candidate.