But, he said an IVR poll lacks the deeper and richer data a polling firm’s work provides, which is why this committee and others still rely on them. No one knows that better than Strauss.
He is a Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduate with a Ph.D. from Princeton. His staff includes another Ph.D., as well as a professional poker player and people from the direct-mail world. Before joining Mark Mellman’s firm, Strauss worked for Harrison Hickman on Al Gore’s presidential campaign, assisting with resource allocation — where to place ads and where the candidate should visit.
Strauss is a proponent of incorporating science into politics and mentioned the voter contact experimentation being done at the Analyst Institute as an inspiration for what is being done at the DCCC this cycle.
“I think that scientific mentality that they bring to politics is something that we want to ingrain in DCCC and campaign decision-making,” Strauss said. “The more we rely on data combined with experience, and the less we rely on just gut feeling, the better.”
The results of the DCCC’s internal IVR polling haven’t all been for internal use. The committee has released several to the media in the form of polling memos to help further its preferred narrative in a particular race: namely, that the contest is tightening or a Democrat is leading.
The NRCC conducts in-house IVR polling as well, under the direction of Brock McCleary, the deputy political and polling director.
“We’ve been doing it primarily to spot-check races, do a lot of message testing,” McCleary said. “You’re looking for a trend.”
The NRCC hasn’t released any of its internal polling yet, but it’s likely to do so soon. McCleary said the targeting and polling operation has been especially helpful following redistricting.
It’s been “running fresh data to figure out what would past electoral results look like in a newly drawn district,” McCleary said. “So there has been a very heavy focus — I know there was here, and I’m sure there was with [the DCCC] — on having good, solid data and understanding these districts. Particularly the California districts.”
The Golden State’s 53 districts were redrawn last year by an independent redistricting commission, with many left unrecognizable.
Based on voter targeting data and toplines from a recent IVR poll, Strauss said he was enthusiastic about California’s 36th district. Earlier in the day, Roll Call reported that the DCCC had shifted money and was going on the air there against Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R), something it hadn’t done in at least the past two cycles.
“The best district that we want to find is a district that is winnable with our help,” Strauss said. “There is the converse, too. We want to know if one of our incumbents is in a lot more trouble than we thought. We want to know that, and make sure they don’t lose.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., carries a musket on stage as he speaks during the American Conservative Union's Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor, Md., on Thursday March 6, 2014.