After a humiliating analytics-driven defeat, the Republican Party is looking to master analytics, and has a couple of tricks up its sleeve that could enable it to leapfrog the Democratic opposition.
President Obama's 2012 victory was analytics-driven. The campaign relied on a single unified voter database, and used it to predict what kinds of people would be persuaded buy different kinds of appeals, test scripts, and drive fundraising. The analytics driven campaign ticked smoothly to victory, whereas Mitt Romney's campaign system -- with the unfortunate code-name "Orca" -- literally crashed at the worst possible time, Election Day itself.
But the GOP is determined to learn from defeat. The Republican National Committee has built an internal incubator, Para Bellum Labs, which opened this month, led by the party's new chief data officer, Azarias Reda.
The GOP hopes to beat the Democrats at their own game by giving the entire party ownership of analytics, not just a particular campaign. Campaigns end, and indeed the Obama campaign's analytics team seems to have dispersed to their own startups following the 2012 election. The Para Bellum operation is indefinite, and will be available in every GOP election, from local midterm races to the White House run in two years.
Para Bellum is also looking to streamline cooperation between local campaign analytics and the centralized party by offering a set of APIs that local campaign applications can tap.
The RNC has had a database of national voters for years, as well as social media and email campaigns. The Bush 2004 campaign used microtargeting and other marketing techniques. But the party left it to individual candidates to fuse the national database with their own campaigns. Campaigns typically get voter roll data from the RNC and turn it to outside consultants, such as telemarketing and list companies, to build on.
“We're focusing on the data layer, the infrastructure, and how that combines with our digital operations," Reda told Ars Technica, “and creating an API platform that our applications, and hopefully, in the future, applications from candidates' campaigns, can use"
Reda comes from a web startup, Merful, which worked with companies on campus recruiting programs.
The name Para Bellum comes from the Roman adage, "Si vis pacem, para bellum," "If you want peace, prepare for war." It was also the name of a German World war I machine gun and a pistol popular with Nazis both in real life and the movies.
The Republicans' political opponents took advantage of the nomenclature. The blog Gawker writes: "Republicans, if you could name your new hip millennial programmer lab anything, why'd you settle on a Latin phrase that carries some serious Hitlerite baggage?
Slate political reporter Dave Weigel got a response from RNC spokesman Sean Spicer, who noted that the dictionary definition of Gawker is "a spectator who stares stupidly without intelligent awareness."
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— Mitch Wagner , Editor in Chief, Internet Evolution.