With final pre-election polls pointing toward a Republican takeover of the Senate, Democratic National Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz
predicted her party would defy the pollsters because of voter turnout.
"We are going to hold the Senate tomorrow night. We have, going into Election Day, a superior ground game that has run circles around the Republicans," she told CNN's Jake Tapper.
When all the dust had settled, it appeared that the "superior ground game" had failed to live up to the chairwoman's promise and that Republicans might have caught up with the Democratic Party in terms of voter mobilization.
"By investing early across this country, the RNC was able to provide critical support to our candidates and campaigns. The RNC has been involved in communities across this country, building relationships and listening to voters. We built an unprecedented data and digital operation, allowing us to reach voters and equip a winning ground game," Republican National Chairman Reince Priebus
said after his party regained control of the Senate.
The investment made by Republicans in building a more effective mobilization effort and targeting operation was overlooked, one Democrat conceded.
"Our side has underestimated the GOP ground game. Their electorate doesn't look like ours, so we don't recognize or respect what they're doing," Democratic pollster Celinda Lake told National Journal
It was not foresight that gave Democrats an advantage in micro-targeting in the last few election cycles. Rather, it was a lack of Republican commitment, says National Journal's Ron Fournier, who co-authored a book about the targeting operation that began in the lead-up to George W. Bush's re-election.
According to Fournier, micro-targeting tactics were used in the corporate and non-profit world for some time, but a decade ago the Bush campaign "expanded the pool of GOP voters and revolutionized the science of politics."
"It worked. But the GOP let its operation ossify while Democrats leapfrogged the Republicans in 2008, when Barack Obama's team harnessed rapidly advancing technologies to amplify his message. Those gains were multiplied in Obama's 2012 re-election, after which Priebus vowed to get the RNC back in the game," Fournier writes.
The RNC committed to spending at least $100 million on Get-Out-the-Vote (GOTV) efforts this cycle, and also created register.gop, which is intended to make gaining access to voter registration easier and to promote early and absentee ballot voting.
The party also launched Victory 365
, a year-round voter engagement strategy focused on voter outreach on the precinct level.
According to its website, Victory 365 has recruited 13,000 precinct captains across the country that are responsible for "identifying, recruiting, and building relationships with voters in their communities."
Republicans also gained from a less-enthusiastic showing from constituencies on which Democrats were depending, such as Latino voters.
Hispanic voters made up only 8 percent of 2014 voters, compared to 10 percent in 2012, according to Pew Research Center's
Hispanic Trends Project.
In addition to a decline in the number of voters, there was also a decline in support for the Democratic Party among Latino voters.
A survey taken before the 2014 midterms found that 63 percent said they identified with or leaned toward the Democratic Party, compared with 70 percent who said the same in 2012.
When asked whether Republicans or Democrats were more supportive of Latino voters, 50 percent said Democrats, which was down from 61 percent from 2012.
"In the current contest, however, both the Republican National Committee and the network of conservative groups allied with the Koch brothers have invested millions in micro-targeting innovation, and are attempting to level the playing field," wrote New York Times
contributor Thomas Edsall in a column after the election.
That investment, he said, could make the difference in a close election in 2016.
"Estimates of the effectiveness of micro-targeting vary, but, if the 2016 election is close, new digital strategies developed in recent years to marshal favorable voters will be crucial to the outcome," he wrote.
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