Trump Beat His Data-Savvy Rivals, But They Can Still Punch Back

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While Ted Cruz’s suspended campaign committee endures to manage assets like fundraiser lists and voter profiles, it has no intention of contributing anything but the bare minimum of its valuable data to the RNC and its voter-file vendor, the Data Trust, said sources with knowledge of the Cruz committee’s plans.

The Cruz committee is not alone: Many other Republican data companies and leaders have no intention of contributing to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s candidacy.

RNC national spokeswoman Lindsay Walters disputed this was the case.

“The RNC is in continual communication with the Cruz and Kasich campaigns,” she told AdExchanger via email. “Both have been very willing to return the data they acquired through using the RNC data system.”

There’s a considerable difference, though, between returning the data the campaign acquired from the RNC and returning enhanced data. 

Here’s how it works: All Republican presidential campaigns, and even most down-ballot candidates, sign an agreement with the RNC and the Data Trust for baseline district, state and national voter files. Over the course of the race, the candidates populate those voter files with the more valuable data they’ve gathered via fundraising, canvassing, phone banking, advertising and campaign outreach.

The strategy, at which Democrats have excelled, benefits the central party and candidates up and down the ticket because the national campaigns drive voter activity and pay for sophisticated tech operations. It also hones each party’s respective voter databases.

But what goes back to the RNC “depends on what data agreements the campaign has signed and what mechanisms are there to keep people accountable,” said Zac Moffatt, co-founder of the conservative programmatic agency Targeted Victory, a former vendor to the Cruz campaign.

Alexander Nix, CEO of the conservative Cambridge Analytica, a key Cruz campaign vendor, added: “The onus is on [the] campaign to share what data it wants back to the RNC.”

One RNC digital media and data analyst, speaking anonymously because he wasn’t authorized to discuss internal workings, said there are no mechanisms to enforce data reciprocation. The contracts are vague, and any kind of aggressive move to pry data from Trump’s rivals would be controversial.

Also, Cruz isn’t the only one holding back: Bloomberg reported earlier this month that the campaigns for Cruz, Marco Rubio and John Kasich have dragged their feet on adding data they received from the Data Trust.

Since Trump secured the nomination, Republican tech and data has moved out of the race – data and expertise that will be difficult to offset with just three months left until the election.

For example, Freedom Partners, the Koch-operated super PAC which owns i360, a leading conservative data analytics firm, pulled its planned investments from the presidential race in mid-May.

Freedom Partners acknowledged it would exit the presidential race two weeks after Cruz suspended his campaign, effectively handing Trump the nomination. It wasn’t just a loss for the politician or his campaign and vendors – it was a blow for a swath of operatives who pushed the Republican Party to more fully embrace digital data and advertising.

Some Republican digital and data analytics firms, like Targeted Victory, Campaign Solutions and TargetPoint, faced rumored vendettas from the Trump campaign after he secured the nomination and integrated with the RNC.

Other prominent Republican data operatives, like Deep Root Analytics’ chief data officer, Alex Lundry (who was also the data chief to Jeb Bush’s former campaign), and TargetPoint CEO Alexander Gage, have loudly opposed the Trump campaign.

The RNC’s director of digital media, Matthew Mazzone, quit Tuesday morning for a job at Poolhouse Agency, a Republican ad firm that worked with the Rubio campaign and is known for opposing Trump’s rise in the party.

Withholding data could have dire effects on Republican presidential prospects. After all, Cruz invested far more than any other Republican presidential candidate on data-driven campaigning this election, according to FEC files. As a result, his campaign built valuable profiles and datasets.

By contrast, when the Trump campaign invested in data and tech during the primary, it looked to HaystaqDNA, a liberal data analytics business spun out of President Obama’s 2012 re-election team.

The Trump campaign used HaystaqDNA’s generic voter models via a deal with L2, a nonpartisan voter file database, which has a revenue-sharing deal to shop out HaystaqDNA baseline models.

“Almost every decision we made during the primary was driven by HaystaqDNA’s data,” Matt Braynard, Trump’s former data chief, said on a Politico panel during the Republican National Convention.

HaystaqDNA knew the Trump campaign had its models, said HaystaqDNA President Andrew Drechsler, “but I was very, very surprised that they would have relied so much on them.

“It’s sort of bizarre, because those are generic models. We use them to boost smaller campaigns, but any scaled campaign would be getting customized models and analytics.”

 

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