It's a complaint we've heard, mostly from next-generation GOP consultant types: Campaigns spend all this money on television and traditional advertising without any real data to inform their spending. That's the subject of a new Campaigns & Elections op-ed submission from Vincent Harris, a GOP new-media consultant: "The Gut: Running GOP campaigns since 1854."
-- "Gut instinct continues to be the primary form of decision making within Republican campaigns," Harris writes, "some of which spend millions of dollars on inefficient media buys based on campaign methods passed down through decades of political lore." We've heard the same thing. "TV's the biggest line item in the budget but the least data-driven," GOP data guru Alex Lundry told us last year, in response to the news that the NRCC would be using polls to better inform its TV-ad spending.
-- But Harris, who headed up now-Sen. Ted Cruz's (R-TX) digital ops in 2012, sees little evidence this is happening thus far during the 2014 cycle. Too much money is going into TV and direct mail, he writes, and not enough is going into digital.
-- The FL-13 Special is an interesting test case; the NRCC has already spent $725,000 on TV ads (through Feb. 10) and $100,000 on web ads. FL-13 is an older district, and special elections usually attract an older electorate, anyway. But the NRCC ultimately intends to use FL-13 to test the effectiveness of both TV and digital to reach persuadables and turn out their voters -- even if that spending level is "in contrast to undeniable research concerning rising digital usage," as Harris writes.
Digital spending by corporations has moved to nearly a quarter of their overall advertising budget, and politics (particularly on the Republican side) hasn't kept up with that. The demographics of midterm-election voters don't necessarily match up with the the overall consumer base, and 2014 won't necessarily be won or lost online. But, as Harris and others argue, spending smarter will boost the GOP's chances of capturing the Senate this year and the White House in 2016.