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GOP getting early handle on outcomes

Carbaugh

Days before last week’s election, Allen County Republican officials were confident that Republican Martin Carbaugh would defeat longtime Democratic State Rep. Win Moses.

The local GOP’s number-crunching guru, Josh Hoot, predicted two days before Election Day that Carbaugh would beat Moses by 1,900 votes. When the votes were counted, the margin was 1,700, with a Libertarian winning 900. The GOP soothsayers predicted Mitt Romney would get 57 percent of the Allen County votes; he ended up with 57.6 percent.

This precision was based not on polls but on the Republican Party’s vast databases that increasingly identify the habits of voters and issues most important to them.

The candidates individual voters choose are not a matter of public record, but the fact that they voted and their previous history of voting in Republican or Democratic primaries is on file and open to the public. So the state and local GOP obtain the names of early voters from county election officials.

By itself, that information is meaningless. But analysts such as Hoot have already built databases that show, at the very least, those voters’ history of voting in Republican or Democratic primaries – and, just as importantly – primary vs. general election voting. Add the Republican National Committee data on voters, and the party can extrapolate the early votes and the voters’ histories to project how the county would vote.

The analysis begins soon after early voting starts and continues right up until it ends.

“As (the election) gets closer, we see the information more often,” local GOP Chairman Steve Shine said. “As the numbers build, then you can use those numbers to channel your dollars.”

Both parties’ use of increasingly intricate and detailed databases helps candidates decide who gets which election mailings and which voters are so loyal to a party that the other party needn’t waste any effort trying to win those votes.

Similarly, many political candidates who formerly knocked on the door of every house they passed now pinpoint which voters might be influenced or reminded to vote and which homes are not worth the time.

While Hoot and the GOP echelon were right on in the Moses and presidential races, they did miss Tony Bennett’s surprise loss. Indeed, the projection sent to Shine two days before the election was that the statewide candidates – Bennett, Mike Pence, Greg Zoeller – would score victories similar to Romney’s in Indiana “with the exception of (Richard) Mourdock. That race is too volatile to make a call on.”

A break

Voters and non-voters who grew tired of the intensity of this year’s elections – which came just a year after an intense campaign locally for Fort Wayne mayor – will get a break in 2013.

In Indiana, there are no elections next year. Nothing in cities, in county government, on school boards, for the legislature or Congress.

Tracy Warner, editorial page editor, has worked at The Journal Gazette since 1981. He can be reached at 461-8113 or by email, twarner@jg.net.

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