Terry McAuliffe’s Identity-Politics ‘Heat Maps’

How did this reprobate Clintonista squeeze out a slim, 55k margin victory? Basically, by creating ‘heat maps‘, then targeting African Americans by scaring them about “voting rights”, young people on homosexuality issues, and low-information hispanics with ads (in Espanol!) about how Cuccinelli hates hispanics:

Recognizing from the start that his path to victory was slim, McAuliffe’s campaign invested early and heavily in establishing powerful tactical advantages over Cuccinelli, including sophisticated modeling of the Virginia electorate, experimentally-vetted messaging and a vast turnout operation that sent more than 13,000 volunteers into the field in the last four days of the election.

And even then, heading into Election Day, the campaign’s internal modeling predicted an electorate that voted for Mitt Romney over Obama by 2 percentage points.

It also showed, however, an electorate in which McAuliffe boosted African-American turnout on the margins and ran ahead of Obama’s 2012 performance with white voters in key areas such as Norfolk and Virginia Beach. Clashing with the perception that McAuliffe was hobbled by his profile as a political glad-hander, the modeling also showed him slightly outperforming a generic Democrat. All that was enough to overcome the Republican tilt of the voting population, if only by a little.

McAuliffe communications director Brennan Bilberry said that despite Democrats’ winning streak in the state’s federal elections, the fundamentals of the state leave only a “much, much narrower” path to take off-year gubernatorial races. The Democrat had to both disqualify Cuccinelli as an ideological firebrand and make sure his own party’s voters didn’t stay home…

The campaign placed field offices based on where likely volunteers and likely get-out-the-vote targets were located. It used its modeling to create “heat maps” of the entire state, showing in florid color where the most intense field efforts should be concentrated…

Many of the conclusions from both the turnout and persuasion models were intuitive, said McAuliffe adviser Michael Halle, who managed the Virginia coordinated campaign. It was little surprise to anyone in McAuliffe’s camp that college-educated men and independent-leaning women were important persuasion targets, or that suburban and exurban counties such as Henrico and Chesterfield represented opportunities for McAuliffe to pick up ground even in a conservative electorate.

Nor was it shocking, McAuliffe aides said, to learn that both Democrats and persuadable swing voters responded positively to an upbeat message about working across the aisle in Richmond to strengthen education and job creation for the middle class. Or that young people reacted with horror to Cuccinelli’s views on gay rights, or that Hispanic voters recoiled from Cuccinelli’s past support for legislation allowing businesses to fire employees for speaking Spanish in the workplace…

Where the Democrats’ extensive modeling made a difference, Halle said, was in allowing them to “apply that research to the specific households” and laser-target voter contact methods and messages…

McAuliffe digital consultant Andrew Bleeker said the precision-targeting of individual voters and households using a persuasion model – a tool that was too expensive for many previous statewide campaigns – was critical in allowing Democrats to deliver their message even in GOP-leaning areas of Virginia.

“Four years ago, we would have said ‘Let’s just worry about Northern Virginia and not run a progressive message anywhere else in the state,’” Bleeker said. “But we have persuadable voters all over the state.”

He cited the campaign’s ability to communicate narrowly with young voters on “the crazy stuff Ken Cuccinelli said, particularly on LGBT issues,” with African Americans on voting rights and with Latino voters in ads featuring Kaine delivering a message in Spanish.

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