How Trump's data operation helped him win - Axios
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How Trump's data operation helped him win

Greg Ruben / Axios

According to conversations with over two dozen staffers and advertising experts involved with the data and advertising operations of both presidential campaigns, the Democratic party's data machine that worked so well in 2008 and 2012 may have ended up working against Hillary Clinton in 2016. Here's what the campaigns did:

  • Like Clinton, the Democratic campaign's digital strategy was disciplined and precise. They were methodical, using data to acutely target voters that were pegged as most likely to vote or most likely to be swayed.
  • Like Trump, the Republican campaign's strategy was unpredictable and opportunistic. They were experimental, especially on Facebook, using data to identify wider sets of potential voters, and to target broader audiences that weren't necessarily pegged as definitive or persuadable voters.

Why it matters: The Clinton campaign's data-driven media and communication tactics may have been too precise amid an unusual media climate against a non-traditional candidate. Conversely, the Trump campaign's reliance on intuition over data drove their message to people and places they would've never otherwise reached, like white, male voters in Wisconsin and Michigan — the voters that delivered his victory.

Campaign structure:

Per a former Clinton party official:

The Clinton campaign was run like a management consulting firm. The Trump campaign was run like a family business.
  • The Trump campaign's main data source came from the RNC, which worked with a third-party firm called Data Trust. The relationship between the RNC and an independent group, not a campaign, is what many from the Trump campaign credit for their electoral success. After their 2008 loss, Data Trust and the RNC began to create an infrastructure that could support any future nominee. "Our theory is Democrats created a machine designed to market one product — Obama. If we can design a system that can market any candidate, not one specific candidate, we think we can leapfrog the competition," Data Trust advisor (and former Reince Priebus chief of staff) Mike Shields said about their strategy.
  • The Clinton campaign's main data hub was split between the DNC and the campaign itself, not a third-party that could cultivate data across cycles. Groups like Catalist, Civis, Organizing for Action and the DNC all housed different pieces of the data at different times that Obama used to target voters in 2012. Sources say the Clinton campaign worked with the DNC to cultivate and model a data pool that had been fragmented after Obama's 2012 win, making it harder for the Clinton campaign to compete with the GOP's long-term strategy.

Targeting strategy: One of the biggest differences between 2012 and 2016 was the increased domination of Facebook and Google, which made micro-targeting through paid advertising on both platforms a significant part of each campaign's strategy.

  • The Clinton campaign used micro-targeting to focus on a specific group of persuadable voters, while the Trump campaign identified persuadable voters and advertised to broader, related groups.
One of biggest lessons of this campaign is you can't get by with small, targeted audiences.
— Google's Head of Industry - Elections, Lee Dunn

Mass-message testing:

  • Trump: Gary Coby, who led the Trump Campaign's advertising team alongside Brad Parscale, said that each day, the campaign tested 40,000-50,000 automated ad combinations on Facebook for $200,000-$300,000. From there, they found which messaging attracted audiences whose voter files weren't pegged as being likely to vote for Trump. Experimenting that quickly allowed them to build up enough historical data to very quickly identify trends of which ads worked and which didn't. Coby told Axios that campaign staff got so good at predicting effectiveness of certain messaging, that they could see what worked after only spending $20-$50 on a particular ad.
  • The Clinton campaign took a more strategic approach, focusing on fewer, more targeted messages, that were more likely to appeal to certain voters and refining them through surveys on video ads across the web. The campaign used technology that was able to measure specifically how messages resonated within different voter files, and drill into subgroups to identify areas for future message optimization. The technology even included ways to measure how external events affected responder bias.
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Genes that cause heart disease also boost reproductive success

Associated Press

Coronary heart disease has likely plagued and killed humans for thousands of years and is still one of the leading causes of death worldwide in the 21st century. Big question: why hasn't evolution weeded out the genes that cause this common, deadly condition in the human heart system?

It seems we might need those genes for something else that the human species considers an even more urgent, primal need – raising lots of children. Researchers found that the same genetic variations that contribute to plaque buildup in arteries, which cause coronary heart disease, also contribute to greater male and female reproductive success.

What it means: Basically, the human species has made an evolutionary trade off over time – better chances for reproduction even though those same genetic changes also lead to potentially fatal disease complications later in life. Parents pass on the genetic variations that help with reproduction to their children before suffering from advanced complications like coronary heart disease.

How they did it: Researchers compared genetic information from two large databases (1000 Genomes and the International HapMap3) to lifetime reproductive data from the Framingham Heart Study and identified more recent evolutionary genetic variations that are linked to heart disease. They then matched them to genetic variations contributing to greater reproductive success.

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Sunday shows roundup: 'threading the needle' on health care

Screengrab via ABC

Sen. Susan Collins said Sunday on ABC's "This Week" that "threading the needle" on health care so that moderates like her and conservative holdouts like Rand Paul would both vote "yes" will be "extremely difficult":
Her concerns: That the Senate bill would have "more impact on the Medicaid program even than the House bill," and would eliminate federal funding for Planned Parenthood.
Paul's position (also on "This Week"): He said the current proposal isn't a repeal of Obamacare, but he'd compromise and vote for an 80% repeal if leadership would work with him.

Other health care highlights from the Sunday shows

Sen. Ron Johnson, another conservative holdout, on NBC's Meet the Press: "There's no way we should be voting on this next week. No way."

Sen. Bill Cassidy, on CBS' Face the Nation: "Right now I am undecided... there are a couple things I'm concerned about... but if those can be addressed I will [vote yes]."

Tom Price, HHS Secretary, on CNN's "State of the Union": "The plan that we would put in place would not allow individuals to fall through the cracks, we would not pull the rug out from anybody, we would not have individuals lose coverage that they want for themselves and their families."
John Kasich, Ohio Gov, on State of the Union: Well, I don't think the bill's adequate now. And unless it gets fixed, I would, look, I'm against it."
Kellyanne Conway, on "This Week": "We also heard the House bill was never going to pass. We heard this guy can never get elected. We're very confident that the Senate bill will get through."
On $800b in Medicaid savings, "These are not cuts to Medicaid."
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Momentum slowing for giant music festivals

Zach Cordner / Invision / AP

A culture of super festivals took over the live music scene, but promoters are starting to think smaller, tailoring offerings to specific audiences, per the L.A. Times' Gerrick Kennedy and August Brown:

  • "[S]ome promoters are reassessing the demand for — and their ability to execute — new mega-events on the scale of Coachella."
  • "Over the last 15 years, the festival economy has grown dramatically; according to a 2015 Nielsen Music survey, 32 million people attend at least one music festival in the U.S. each year (nearly half are [millennials]).... Promoters remain eager to tap into that growth with new events, but there are signs of over-saturation."
  • Why it matters: "On average, those who attend a festival spend more on live concerts, digital music and streaming subscriptions than the general population."
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Trump may not be the electoral disaster Dems hoped for

AP

Besides the fact that Republicans historically have been more reliable midterm voters, Democrats may have another problem in 2018: Trump isn't the disaster for his party that so many had assumed.

An L.A. Times front-pager by Cathleen Decker points to Dems' string of special-election losses this year:

"Trump is so distinctive a politician that it's hard to persuade voters that other Republican candidates are carbon copies of the president. Trump's outsized persona makes even those Republicans who share his views seem more moderate, an important attribute to swing voters."

  • Why it matters: "[V]oters' complicated views of Trump may give Republicans more running room than his popularity figures suggest. The votes cast by individual Republican incumbents [like healthcare in the Senate this week] may be more important to their survival than any linkage with the president."

P.S. Dan Balz "The Sunday Take" column on WashPost p A2, "After Ossoff's loss, do Democrats have a message?": "Right now, the one discernible message is opposition to President Trump. ... What's needed is a message that attracts voters beyond the blue-state base of the party."

"Fault lines and fissures exist between the ascendant progressive wing at the grass roots and those Democrats who remain more business-friendly. ... Trump might not succeed in draining the swamp, but he has tapped into sentiments about Washington that Democrats ignore at their peril."

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Gerrymandering gives GOP huge structural advantage

AP analysis of election data

Republican gains in statehouses during Obama's first midterm produced a priceless advantage when House districts were redrawn after the 2010 census, and AP has quantified that in a fascinating way:

"Republicans [last year] won as many as 22 additional U.S. House seats over what would have been expected based on the average vote share in congressional districts across the country. That helped provide the GOP with a comfortable majority over Democrats instead of a narrow one."

That's the most striking finding of a project the AP has been planning with members for weeks, "Redrawing America: Imbalance of Power ... how gerrymandering benefited GOP in 2016," by David Lieb:

  • "The AP scrutinized the outcomes of all 435 U.S. House races and about 4,700 state House and Assembly seats up for election last year."
  • "The analysis found four times as many states with Republican-skewed state House or Assembly districts than Democratic ones. Among the two dozen most populated states that determine the vast majority of Congress, there were nearly three times as many with Republican-tilted U.S. House districts."
  • "Traditional battlegrounds such as Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Florida and Virginia were among those with significant Republican advantages in their U.S. or state House races. All had districts drawn by Republicans after the last Census in 2010."
  • "[E]ven if Democrats had turned out in larger numbers, their chances of substantial legislative gains were limited by gerrymandering."
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Trump says he did call Republican health care plan "mean"

Screengrab via Fox News Channel

In an interview that aired Sunday on Fox & Friends, President Trump seemed to acknowledge he had called the House GOP's health care bill "mean" — accusing Barack Obama of stealing "my term." He also criticized Democrats, saying "their theme is resist. I've never heard anything like this, resist." More highlights:
  • Passing the plan: "It would be so great if the Democrats and Republicans could get together, wrap their arms around it and come up with something that everybody's happy with, but we won't get one Democratic vote."
  • GOP holdouts of health plan: "I don't think they're that far off... I think we're going to get there.... The alternative is the dead carcass of Obamacare."
  • On Elizabeth Warren: "I actually think she's a hopeless case. I call her Pocahontas and that's an insult to Pocahontas."
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Senators claim illegal tactics being used to collect taxes

Steven Senne / AP

Elizabeth Warren and three other Democratic senators are accusing a company hired to collect federal taxes of making illegal and "extremely dangerous" suggestions to individuals in debt to the government — including that they pull from their retirement funds, take out a home loan or pay with credit cards, per the NY Times.

The background: The senators obtained call scripts from Pioneer, one of four companies hired by the I.R.S. to collect tax debt, and objected in a letter:
"Pioneer is unique among I.R.S. contractors in pressuring taxpayers to use financial products that could dramatically increase expenses, or cause them to lose their homes or give up their retirement security," they wrote.
The I.R.S told the Times it did not have a problem with the methods being used. The senators, meanwhile, claim they are a "clear violation" of the laws surrounding tax collection.
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"Matter of urgency" on post-Grenfell fire risks

Matt Dunham / AP

Testing on samples of tower block material following the deadly Grenfell Tower fire has produced uniformly dismal results, said U.K. Communities Secretary Sajid Javid per the AP:

  • "Britain's government is urging local officials across the country to submit samples of tower block cladding 'as a matter of urgency' after tests found that all cladding samples so far have failed fire safety tests.
  • "Javid said all 34 samples tested didn't meet fire safety standards. ... Officials at Camden Council in north London have evacuated hundreds of apartments in four tower blocks as a precaution..."
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The Democratic leanings of Bob Mueller's team

Evan Vucci / AP

Members of Special Counsel Bob Mueller's team leading the Russia investigation have donated almost exclusively to Democratic candidates, according to the FEC.

Why it matters: Former House Speaker Newt Gingrish tweeted it's "Time to rethink" if the Mueller-led investigation will be fair, given their donation history. But Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein, who appointed Mueller, said he sees no problem with the donations.

The donations:

  1. James Quarles: Donated almost $33,000 to Democrats, including Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. He has also donated about $2,750 to Republicans — the only lawyer on Mueller's team to have done so.
  2. Jeannie Rhee: Donated more than $16,000 since 2008 to Democrats, including the maximum donation possible to Clinton in both 2015 and 2016. Rhee has also donated to Obama.
  3. Andrew Weissmann: Donated more than $4,000 to Obama in 2008 and $2,000 to the DNC in 2006.
  4. Elizabeth Prelogar: Donated $250 each to Clinton in 2016 and Obama in 2012.

There are no FEC filings for Aaron Zebley. It was not immediately clear whether Lisa Page had donated. The Michael Dreeben listed in the FEC database is not the same Dreeben Mueller hired, per CNN. Bob Mueller has not made donations.

Read more about the members of Mueller's team.

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Trump goes after Republicans who won't support health bill

Trump's latest health care tweet is yet another example of the president's penchant for tweet-shaming those who disagree with him. Axios reported this morning on the 8 Republican Senators who could make or break the Senate health bill, and Trump's tweet is not-so-subtly targeting them: