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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Microtargeting Iowa

As Garance Franke-Ruta has pointed out, Ryan Lizza has an Obama campaign update in the latest issue of The New Yorker which includes a fascinating nugget about its focus on “microtargeting” analysis of the Iowa Caucus-going electorate:

[A] thousand miles away, in Washington, D.C., an array of forty-eight computer processors were mining census demographics, consumer-marketing data, and Iowa-state voter files to form one of the most sophisticated and data-rich portraits of an electorate ever created. This is the work of Ken Strasma, who is among the Democratic Party’s most admired numbers gurus. After being pursued by all the major candidates, Strasma, who helped Kerry to win Iowa in 2004, decided to commit his firm, Strategic Telemetry, to Obama.


When the demographic DNA is combined with polling and interviews with Iowa voters, Strasma is able to create the political equivalent of a FICO score—the number that creditors use to determine whether a consumer is a good bet to repay a loan. Strasma’s score tells the campaign of the likelihood that a specific Iowan will support Obama.

Iowa, of course, is about getting supporters to show up and stay half the night at precinct Caucuses, as much or more than identifying such voters to begin with. And the section of Lizza’s piece about Obama’s precinct training centers on plans to deploy chocolate chip cookies to deter hungry Caucus-goers from heading off to a drive-thru before the final vote is taken.
Maybe the “demographic DNA” being assembled by Obama’s numbers wizards in Washington can tell precinct captains in Iowa what kind of munchies would work best with each committed and undecided voter.

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