According to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s pollster, Cantor’s defeat was due to thousands of Democrats in Virginia who voted in Tuesday’s primary.
But according to David Brat’s campaign that wasn’t the case.
“We were polling a universe of people who voted in one of the last three Republican primaries and said that they were likely to vote in this Republican primary,” said John McLaughlin, a New York-based pollster quoted in Campaigns & Elections magazine.
Winner David Brat’s campaign didn’t spend any time targeting Democrats.
Steve Adler, founder of Voter Activation Network (VAN) and rVotes, said Brat’s campaign used rVotes to expand its universe beyond the traditional Virginia GOP primary voters being targeted by Cantor’s campaign. Adler also said several Tea Party campaigns had donated their data to Brat to allow him to expand his targeting universe.
“Now, suddenly he had access to hundreds if not thousands of different codes,” said Adler. “Funky stuff like anything from ‘voter owns only American cars’ to ‘known patriot group member’ to ‘voter flies a flag’ or ‘voter has an NRA sticker on their car.’ They were aggressively using the system to microtarget.”
Brat paid only $1,500, or 1 percent of his campaign budget, to use rVotes, the targeting software. Cantor, on the other hand, spent more than $5 million on TV ads, consultants, lawyers and fundraising.
McLaughlin pointed out that turn out two years ago was 46,000. Tuesday’s turnout was more than 65,000. “Untold story is who were the 19,000 new primary voters? They were probably not Republicans,” said McLaughlin.
A story in the Washington Post cited that high voter turnout was another thing that did not work in Cantor’s favor.
Brat’s successful strategy is definitely a model for Tea Party and Libertarian activists to use going forward.