Obama and Romney big data experts continue the political battle

Big data is used to help Democrat Senate candidate Cory Booker in New Jersey

WASHINGTON -- The self-described nerds of President Obama's presidential campaign last year were back using big data analytics, this time to help Newark Mayor Cory Booker achieve a landside primary win Tuesday in the New Jersey Democratic primary for a vacant U.S. Senate seat.

But, notably, the Obama data scientists are doing this work as consultants, through their own recently formed firm, BlueLabs.

BlueLabs built a turnout model for the Booker campaign, predicting the likelihood of each Democratic voter in New Jersey to vote in the primary.

The primary results "proved that our model was spot on," said BlueLabs co-founder Chris Wegrzyn, one of the former senior members of the 2012 Obama campaign's analytical department.

The proof, one supposes, is in the victory. But the Republican data scientists aren't ceding anything.

At about the same time BlueLabs was formed, the chief data scientist for Mitt Romney's campaign, Alex Lundry, co-founded Deep Root Analytics.

How to navigate the data analytics path
5 big ideas to profit from data analytics
Why predictive analytics matters

Lundry gives credit to the Obama campaign data effort, and said "that campaign, without a doubt, in 2012, had data and analytics more fully integrated into their structure."

But since last year's election, "what you are seeing is a flurry of activity on the right to make sure that we not only catch them, but surpass them," Lundry said.

Indeed, while the Democrats were counting votes Tuesday, Deep Root announced a partnership with FourthWall Media, a major source of cable set-top box viewing data.

That data, which is anonymized, records what people watch. Change a channel and a new row of data is created. The idea is to take this data, combine it with insights about the voters, and then place ads on TV shows most likely to reach certain voters, such as swing voters. Lundry said this will improve the efficiency of campaign advertising spending.

Political campaigns have been using data for years to develop sophisticated understanding of voters. But the combination of relatively low-cost cloud computing, large quantities of data collected via online, in public repositories, and from sensors and so on, gave rise to big data analysis as researchers correlated these data sets in search of new insights.

"You are collecting everything you can, and essentially comparing it every way you can," said James Hendler, a professor in the computer and cognitive science departments at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and head of its Institute for Data Exploration and Applications.

"When you do a poll and you talk to 1,000 people who represent 100,000 people, you get a margin of error plus or minus 3%," said Hendler. That's helpful, but it's not nearly as helpful as having 70,000 of those 100,000 people. "You get much more precise, and start identifying sub-communities that you can't do in a poll."

This field is new. The first graduate program in analytics was created in 2007, and universities are rushing to establish programs.

In the 2012 campaign, big data use came of age, Lundry said. This campaign "was definitely the first cycle in which the term 'data scientists' was part of the org chart in any campaign."

Wegrzyn said BlueLabs assembled a creative team of problem solvers, engineers, statisticians, data scientists and domain experts, and said they want campaigns to see analytics as "an agile, team-driven, creative process."

Wegrzyn was surprised by the attention the analytical effort received during the Obama campaign. He led the selection and deployment of the Hewlett-Packard Vertica platform that the campaign used.

"Usually the nerds in the back room don't warrant a great deal of attention, especially in politics," said Wegrzyn, "but the world is changing."

This article, Obama and Romney big data experts continue the battle as businesses, was originally published at Computerworld.com.

Patrick Thibodeau covers cloud computing and enterprise applications, outsourcing, government IT policies, data centers and IT workforce issues for Computerworld. Follow Patrick on Twitter at @DCgov or subscribe to Patrick's RSS feed. His e-mail address is pthibodeau@computerworld.com.

See more by Patrick Thibodeau on Computerworld.com.

Read more about big data in Computerworld's Big Data Topic Center.

Join the CMO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Show Comments

Supporting Association

Blog Posts

Brand management starts with management

As the world continues to grow and evolve, it’s more important than ever to build a strong brand that articulates your message clearly and consistently, stands out against the noise, and develops relevance with the people that matter. This makes managing your brand a key component to gaining cut-through and ultimately business success.

Dan Ratner

managing director, Uberbrand

Disrupting marketing as we know it

Call it digital disruption or the fourth industrial revolution, our rapidly evolving environment is affecting consumer perceptions, purchase behaviours and the way they consume information and products.

Jean-Luc Ambrosi

Author, marketer

Should your disclaimer become your headline?

To avoid misleading customers, or simply through fear of legal backlash, advertising has evolved to hide the potential shortcomings of an offer in its disclaimer.

Sam Tatam

Head of behavioural science, OgilvyChange Australia

Very interesting article which touches on the importance of a feedback loop fuelled by customer and market insights. Ideally this scenari...

Andrew Reid

Building customer insights in the data and digital age

Read more

Very very good piece- very novel and innovative and very possibly- effective - way to look at one's communication headlines!

Patrick Dsouza

Should your disclaimer become your headline? - Brand science - CMO Australia

Read more

Excellent post Rob, Mobile app users are growing day by day. Everyday lots of apps are launched in the market but not every app retains t...

Marcus Miller

Why app engagement must be personalised - Mobile strategy - CMO Australia

Read more

very informative blog. I really like the information given in this blog.http://gng.com.au/

Gajanand Choudhary

The evolving role of the CMO - The CMO view - CMO Australia

Read more

It is true That’s the new read following up Deloitte Digital's Digital disruption - Short Fuse, blowup analysis series, that appearance t...

miller645645@mail.ru

Digital disruption about to impact health, education sectors

Read more

Latest Podcast

More podcasts

Sign in