OK, you say, but what about the recent data breach scandal on the Dem side, in which the Sanders team accessed proprietary information from the Clinton campaign via a glitch in the shared Democratic National Committee (DNC) database? The incident would seem to undermine the image of Democrats working together more cooperatively.
On the contrary: Embarrassing as it was, the episode also highlighted the Dem advantage.
“For all the bad press Democrats have gotten on their data operations, that all this data is being aggregated and will carry over years from campaign to campaign is a huge privilege,” said Kaplan.
According to Kaplan, the data breach shows the general risk of firewall failures within a database, but it also shows how unified the Dems are, operating what is essentially a massive data co-op. On the Republican side, meanwhile, the data environment is more siloed and competitive.
The Sanders campaign was quickly given back its revoked access to the DNC database, and the dispute failed to materialize as something that would destabilize the Democratic primary.
In the end, the loser, Sanders or Clinton, will get in line behind the other and his or her data will be used to help their former adversary win the general election. Republican senators like Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Rand Paul – to say nothing of Donald Trump, the Republican leader in the polls – are not building an analogous data network.
“Campaigns develop their own sophisticated data sets and tools, and then typically those disappear at the end of a campaign,” said Kaplan. “Democrats have an answer for that and I’m not sure if a similarly good solution exists on the other side.”
Political realities impact media spending in other ways as well. Kurt Luidhart, a co-founder and media strategist at The Prosper Group, which handles digital buying for the Chris Christie super PAC America Leads, said that, on the Republican side in particular, “There’s a lot of competition for the same inventory and voter sets [that] campaigns are targeting.”
“With so many candidates, we have to be careful about where we find our audiences,” said Luidhart. “If there were fewer people in the race, there’d be more premium inventory available at a wider array of places. But we have to dig deeper and go wider to find the same opportunities.”