Forecasting 2014: Is the New GOP Honeybadger another Orca, or is it a Democratic Narwhal? April 2, 2014 Vol. VII, No. 8 12:13 pm If I had to choose only one bit of information for forecasting partisan fortunes in 2014, like the winner in the North Carolina U.S. Senate race, it would be the
Forecasting 2014: Is the New GOP Honeybadger another Orca, or is it a Democratic Narwhal?
April 2, 2014 Vol. VII, No. 8 12:13 pm
If I had to choose only one bit of information for forecasting partisan fortunes in 2014, like the winner in the North Carolina U.S. Senate race, it would be the answer to the question: Is the new GOP Honeybadger just another Republican Orca, or is it a Democratic Narwhal?
Narwhal? Orca? Honeybadger?
Project Narwhal is Democratic President Obama’s 2012 $100 million “get out the vote” digital data-mining, voter contact and turnout tracking operation. Project Narwhal drove up the turnout of the most unlikely voters in 2012, like African Americans in Ohio and young people everywhere, giving Obama another four years in the White House.
Orca? Orca is Republican Mitt Romney’s 2012 “get out the vote” app that was supposed to neutralize Obama’s Project Narwhal. Instead, Orca crashed. It turned out to be an unmitigated disaster. Never beta tested! In Boston, on Election Day, a Romney campaign aide told the Washington Times, "Somebody said Orca is lying on the beach with a harpoon in it.”
Conversely, read Time’s story, Inside the Secret World of the Data Crunchers Who Helped Obama Win, and you will discover that Jim Messina, Obama’s Campaign Manager, invested $100 million in technology and analytics software dubbed Project Narwhal. Messina hired a team of techies five times the size of the 2008 operations group. They shattered turnout records.
These data-mining geeks worked in secret in a remote corner of the HQ in Chicago for 18 months, “creating a single massive system that could merge the information collected from pollsters, fundraisers, field workers and consumer databases as well as social-media and mobile contacts with the main Democratic voter files in the swing states.”
Project Narwhal helped to:
- Predict the types of people who would be persuaded by specific messages
- Rank their target lists for unique actions in order of persuadability (register; donate)
- Predict the types of people who would volunteer, and for what type of work
- Raise a record $1 billion war chest
- Register 3 million new voters and turn out voters in swing states in record numbers
Democrats’ $60 Million Bannock Street Project Coming to NC
On March 27, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee announced plans to hold their U.S. Senate majority by investing $60 million in a turnout operation named the Bannock Street Project, the “largest and most data-driven ground game ever.” On April 1, 2014, the Washington Post reported that North Carolina’s Sen. Kay Hagan is one of the Senate Democrats targeted for support by the Bannock Street Project. The Bannock Street Project is targeting 374,000 African-Americans and 500,000 women in North Carolina who voted in 2012 but not 2010.
An effective ground game is especially advantageous in a nonpresidential year like 2014.
Turnout in the last two non-presidential year primaries in North Carolina was 12% (2006) and 14% (2010). That suggests that 2014 Primary Election turnout will be about 13%. For emphasis: 87% will not vote. In the General Elections in 2006 and 2010, turnout was 37% and 44% respectively. That suggests that turnout in this fall’s general election will be about 40%.
Last year, 2013, New Jersey saw a record-low turnout of just 39.6% in the General Election. Even in Virginia last year, with hotly contested campaigns for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general, only 42.7% of the Commonwealth’s voters bothered to vote.
Nationally, Republicans are well aware of the advantage that Democrats have with tech savvy communications and turnout tools. In February, Reince Priebus, RNC Chairman, announced the formation of Para Bellum Labs, an in-house technology incubator that combines data-analytics and digital marketing.
However, the most significant development by Republicans in the attempt to reestablish their once-held turnout advantage is named Honeybadger. Honeybadger, developed by the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee, was credited as the winning difference in the Florida Special Election won in March by Republican David Jolly.
With Honeybadger, the Jolly camp was able to track voters they had to target and discover what would motivate them to vote. "We had a lot of high-probability folks left, so if we were able to focus our message properly, we could create a surge," said John Rogers, NRCC Deputy Political Director. "Once we switched to that script across the board, that's when the surge started," he said.
Narwhal? Orca? Honeybadger?
A Narwhal is an arctic whale that dives for food deeper than other marine mammals (2,600 feet, 15 times per day, with many dives reaching 4,900 feet). That’s what the Obama camp did with Project Narwhal. They dove deeper into the data than ever before and broke turnout records. That’s what the Democrats are planning with the Bannock Street Project in North Carolina.
An Orca is supposed to be a killer whale. But the Romney campaign geek squad turned the Orca into a playful performer at Sea World that jumps when it’s told and eats a diet prescribed by nutritionists and hand fed by trainers.
However, Republicans are now back on the right track with new tech-savvy turnout operations like Honeybadger. A honey badger is a savage carnivorous predator that eats porcupines and poisonous snakes, steals food from lions and raids beehives.
Thom Tillis will defeat U.S. Senator Kay Hagan and the GOP will win back the U.S. Senate if the GOP turnout operation is more like the Honeybadger than the Orca. Otherwise, Republicans are going to be whistling into the sunset on the Democrats’ Bannock Street.
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John N. Davis, Editor