ICYMI: POLITICO: WPA’s New App Promises Obama-Style Data Management

02/08/2017
By Elena Schneider

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The GOP consulting firm WPA Research has a new resource on offer for 2018 campaigns: Archie.

The nickname, used by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s political team, refers not to a staffer but to a new web app formally known by its creators as Archimedes, after the Greek mathematician who said, “Give me a lever and I can move the world.” The program’s architects say it represents the latest step in Republican efforts to match Democrats in data collection, synchronization and modeling — and in making those tools available and accessible for down-ballot campaigns.

The program allows campaigns to work across all formats and vendors to collect data in one place, whether from donors or volunteers or voter lists. Campaign staffers will be able to use the app to generate models, target audiences, cut lists and produce data visualization tools to make strategic decisions. Smaller campaigns, subject to contracted agreements, will be able to access data from statewide campaigns in their states, too.

“We want to give campaigns an easy way for them to work with data, an easy way to take in data, an easy way to visualize it, an easy way to export it and an easy way to utilize it,” said Chris Wilson, the CEO of WPA Research, who was the director of research, analytics and strategy on Sen. Ted Cruz ’s 2016 presidential campaign. “This is the start, where a campaign can manage every aspect of its data.”

“Analytics firms haven’t had access to every single piece of data that’s being generated by the campaign, except at the presidential level,” said Bryon Allen, WPA’s chief research officer. “At the presidential level, the big campaigns that can afford a large, in-house data operation, have generally done an effort to get all their data together and work with it. But with campaigns below that level, you usually have a data manager, sitting in an office, and sometimes that’s just a kid with an Excel spreadsheet.”

Wilson said Archimedes grew from his own frustrations on the presidential trail with Cruz.

“Tom Schultz, our data director, did a schematic of it, drew a schematic on my whiteboard of all our data inputs and outputs, all our various sources of campaign data. It frighteningly resembled an Obamacare schematic. Like something woven by an insane spider,” Wilson said. “That was the moment we realized something had to be done to simplify the system.”

In Texas — where the past campaigns of Abbott and former Gov. Rick Perry acquired reputations for being on the cutting edge of GOP politics — Abbott’s data director Michael Burley doesn’t have an analytics background. But he said using Archimedes means he can hit the ground running, even though “this my first cycle doing this stuff,” he said.

“I can go into the app and run a query without having any kind of in-depth data language required,” Burley said.