Newspaper article International New York Times

Republicans Scramble to Modernize

Newspaper article International New York Times

Republicans Scramble to Modernize

Article excerpt

Beaten twice by President Obama's data-driven organization, they say their party needs to adjust its techniques quickly to compete with Democrats.

Long before Donald J. Trump crashed their party, Republican strategists feared that Democrats had grown more skilled at running campaigns. Now they're scrambling to keep from falling further behind.

Mr. Trump thwarted a large field of rivals for the Republican nomination by capitalizing on his celebrity, his ubiquitous television presence and his easily understood pledge to "Make America Great Again."

Television ads, field organization and digital microtargeting had little to do with it.

But other candidates are unlikely to replicate that formula. Beaten twice by President Obama's data-driven organization, Republicans say their party needs to adjust its campaign techniques more rapidly to compete with Democrats, regardless of how Mr. Trump fares on Election Day.

"We are still dominated by a culture of people who did grow up in a non-cellphone age," Michael Meyers, president of TargetPoint Consulting, told a gathering of campaign operatives in Washington last week. "We are ripe for disruption."

Mr. Meyers, who advised Mitt Romney's 2008 and 2012 campaigns, said advances since had given Republicans the capacity to identify target voters as precisely as Democrats could. Using smartphone applications, for example, technicians can find gun enthusiasts who visited shooting ranges in specific counties and help them register to vote.

Yet many campaigns still lean on scattershot habits that fritter away war chests without hitting enough targets.

"Only three out of every 100 people who watch TV in Boston are going to vote in the New Hampshire primary," said Michael Beach, co- founder of Targeted Victory, who advised the primary campaign of Senator Ted Cruz of Texas. "It shouldn't be the first thing you spend your money on."

The same pattern plays out in campaigns for the House of Representatives, where most viewers reached by television ads reside outside the particular districts that Republicans and Democrats are fighting over.

Using television to change minds may cost a campaign $1,000 per "persuadable" voter, Mr. …

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