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Texas Democrats Say They Can Now Predict Voter Preferences

Texas Democrats say they now have technology to predict voter partisanship, which will allow them to tailor their campaigning approaches. Texas Republicans aren’t so impressed: “Everything they’re describing is Politics 101.”

(TNS) — The Texas Democratic Party Thursday unveiled its new "Texas Partisanship Model," which it says will allow it to predict with greater accuracy the partisan leanings of virtually every registered voter in Texas.

The party said that includes some 600,000 registered voters for whom it previously lacked partisanship scores but nearly two-thirds to three-fourths of whom they believe to be likely Democratic voters.

"We are building the biggest Democratic movement this state has ever seen. Our Texas Partisanship Model is going to be our X factor in November," said Texas Democratic Party Targeting Director Hudson Cavanagh.

Cavanagh was brought on board last fall to build the new model by Lauren Pully, who the state party had hired in May as its director of data and analytics.

"By making these innovative and unique investments, we built our own machine learning model that will help campaigns across the state prioritize their precious resources and time," said Cavanagh, who previously worked in New York City for BounceX, a global behavioral marketing company. "We are proud to reimagine what a state party data team can achieve. Simply put, this is how we win."

A partisanship score is a number from zero to hundred that indicates the partisan leanings of a voter. It is used by the party and individual campaigns to best target both persuasion and get out the vote efforts.

For Democrats, the most partisan Republicans would rate a zero and the most partisan Democrats would score 100.

Cavanagh said that in the past, Texas campaigns relied on national data based on national trends. The new model, he said, incorporates in real time voter contacts by Democratic campaigns up and down the ballot in Texas, and can adjust to fast-changing circumstances in the political environment in Texas.

"Trends that might have held in 2018 might not be holding in 2020 and having real time feedback is really powerful," Cavanagh said.

"No other state has ever built one of these in house and maintained it for just the purpose of applying it to one state," he said.

"On every single axis we've evaluated it, it's outperformed the national models," Cavanah said. "This is because we are asking a fundamentally clearer and simpler question than the national model. Instead of trying to predict the entire United States' partisanship, and then applying that method to Texas, we said, let's just focus on Texas."

But former Texas Republican Party Chairman Steve Munisteri, who is now advising the party as well as the reelection campaign of U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said the announcement sounded like more of what he said has been the relentless hype from Democrats about all they are doing to make Texas competitive in 2020.

""I'm surprised to hear that they are just now doing that, that they are just now acquiring Texas-specific information for Texas voters," Munisteri said.

"The Republican Party uses RNC (Republican National Committee) voter scores for virtually anyone who has ever voted," Munisteri said. But he said that data has always been augmented by Texas-specific data gathered on the ground by Texas Republicans.

"Everything they're describing is Politics 101," Munisteri said. "We do it. They do it. We just don't talk about it. So enough already. Let's just who wins."

Joshua Blank, research director at the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin, said that announcements like this are mostly intended to underline the seriousness of Democratic efforts in Texas.

He said it sounded like what they are doing is "the job of a state party, they all just don't roll it out as a press release."

"At the end of the day, the election is not a technology contest, it's a contest about mobilizing your voters to the polls," Blankd said. "Whether or not the Democrats have made an advance in the technology underlying that process, ultimately the real work is actually getting voters to vote, something that the Democratic Party, particularly the Democratic Party in Texas, has had a challenge with in the last 20 years."

Jeremy Smith, who worked with the state party to develop Register2Vote, a non-profit he heads that created a method of streamlining voter registration in Texas and nationally, said of the latest party effort, "I think what they are doing is wise and smart and aggressive and interesting."

"Whether or not it is better is unproven but my supposition is that it has to be better than the national models and it could make a very big difference in Texas," Smith said.

©2020 Austin American-Statesman, Texas. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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