Technology and the Base

The major political party conventions are done, and now the micro-targeters take over, the political marketers who understand your voting, shopping and Internet browsing histories better than you do.

Armed with iPads and other touch-screen devices, they’re deploying armies of political activists and phone bankers who have two goals: Get Las Vegas Valley voters to the polls while critical TV and Internet commercials push down opposition turnout.

The data-driven approach, pioneered by Karl Rove in 2000 and the two Davids (Axelrod and Plouffe) for the 2008 Obama campaign, relies upon the sort of GIS data for a given neighborhood—voter demographics, shopping preferences and TV-viewing habits—that are effectively used by grocery-store giants and other major retailers.

“It allows us to know what magazines people read, and if you’re an independent voter who reads The Nation rather than Commentary, that tells us you’re more likely to vote for Democrats,” says a Las Vegas political operative. “So we’ll focus our time and efforts on the Nation reader, not the other guy.”

Democrats and Republicans are also employing Google-style algorithms to parse your Internet-browsing history and steer you to short videos for their candidates, fundraising pitches and spots critical of the opposition.

“All of the negative ads are out there to keep the other person’s base from voting. All of the canvassing and phone banks are out there to shore up the base,” says the operative, who is focused on one key date—Oct. 20—the start of early voting in Nevada, which lasts for 14 days. Election Day is Nov. 6.

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