That’s the question asked by the Washington Post’s chief digital officer, Vijay Ravindran, who wonders how much technological infrastructure backs up Sarah Palin’s speeches, the “tea parties,” and Newt Gingrich’s excellent adventures. Good question.
Ravindran observes that the print and broadcast media mainly missed all the innovations initiated by Democrats in 2004 and 2008–social networking (MoveOn.org), online fundraising (Act Blue), and major donor fundraising for think tanks and advocacy groups (the Democracy Alliance). These improvements overcame older Republican advances in direct mail and talk radio.
Ravindran notes that “microtargeting” likely voters by data mining was important in helping leftwing interest groups turn out the vote in the 2005 Virginia governor’s race. He attributes Tim Kaine’s success to the sophisticated data aggregation techniques developed by former Clinton aide Harold Ickes, who started a private company Catalist. Ickes had clashed with Howard Dean, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, and persuaded George Soros to put up $1 million to fund the Catalist operation.
Ravindran confesses to not knowing much about conservative capability in the new infrastructure architecture. However, the Washington Post’s chief digital officer knows lots about databanks and web-based tools since he was formerly the chief technology officer at Catalist.