NRCC secret weapon for David Jolly win — “Honeybadger” GOP database

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U.S. Rep. David Jolly’s success in the Florida 13th Congressional District can be summed up with one word —“Honeybadger.”

That is what the National Republican Congressional Committee calls the voter database, a year in the making that they claim was central to Jolly’s victory in the Florida special election.

According to Alex Roarty in the National Journal, the operation was groundbreaking for the NRCC, the first time ever employed for a Republican congressional candidate.

A continually updating voter database, Honeybadger uses real-time data taken from voter rolls, giving campaigns the ability to track targeted voters, determine which messages would motivate them to go to the polls and evaluate exactly how much ground Jolly needed to cover when mail in ballot counts didn’t break his way.

The GOP is not shy about the impact of Honeybadger, Roarty writes, saying it was directly responsible for Jolly going to Congress instead of his opponent, Democrat Alex Sink.

None of this was possible in 2012, says the NRCC, but by December 2013, everything was in place.

Honeybadger identified two main groups of voters as necessary for Jolly’s victory: independent, center-right women and Republican seniors. The NRCC, working with the Republican National Committee and Florida state GOP, targeted those groups for “persuasion,” which strategists say happened in part by combining existing data with information from the RNC’s refurbished Data Trust, the hub of GOP voter information. 

By February, strategists at the NRCC estimated that in the absentee ballot race, Honeybadger determined that Jolly trailed Sink by six points, but was leading by 12-14 points with those who hadn’t yet voted.

As early voting began March 1, the GOP was running out of time.

Acting quickly, Republicans targeted voters identified in Honeybadger as essential to success, those most likely to vote on Election Day. As encouragement, NRCC strategists, using its legally separate independent expenditure group, measured the exact points most effective in persuading voters to turn in mail-in ballots.

The final message, issued through a variety of digital platforms and email, focused on pressing them to vote now, or Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi would be one-step closer to reclaiming House leadership.

The eventual Republican success should give Democrats pause, says Roarty, with a technology and information gap supposed to be one of the few advantages in a tough midterm election cycle.

Republicans may not have caught up, but there’s little doubt that the CD 13 race shows the GOP has made significant gains in technological organization since November 2012.

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.