To maintain their advantage, Democrats say they must guard against the propensity of political data to deteriorate in off years, when funding and attention dwindles, while navigating the inevitable intra-party squabbles over who gets access now that the unifying forces of a billion-dollar presidential campaign are gone.
“If this is all we do with this technology, I think it will be a wasted opportunity,” said Michael Slaby, the campaign’s chief integration and innovation officer.
Tests of whether Obama’s database can be successfully redeployed will come even sooner. Virginia Democrat Terry McAuliffe, a party insider who ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2009, already has inquired about the data for his gubernatorial campaign next year, say those familiar with the conversations.
“We have been communicating to Obama For America all along about the importance of receiving that data, since Virginia has a 2013 election,” said Brian Moran, the outgoing chairman of the Virginia Democratic Party.
Though McAuliffe is an early front-runner, many in the party say individual candidates should get access to such data only after winning the nomination — something that in Virginia can’t happen before the June primary, leaving only a few months before the November general election. The short time frame may make a full data set, should McAuliffe get it, even more valuable.
All the party’s candidates have access to the lists kept by the party, which includes voting and donation histories along with some consumer data. What Obama’s database adds are the more fine-grained analyses of what issues matter most to voters and how best to motivate them to donate, volunteer and vote.
But there are serious logistical challenges to handling a database of the size and sophistication of Obama’s, which is why campaign officials are debating how to proceed even though there is wide agreement on the desire to help fellow Democrats and like-minded independent groups.