(TNS) -- Talking about “ground game” ahead of New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation Presidential Primary, it seemed appropriate to hear Tom Rath refer to “Sabermetrics,” the statistical study of baseball to identify player performance.
“It's become more like the analytics approach to baseball,” he said. “Analytics really drives a lot of the tactical decisions.”
His player is John Kasich, the Ohio governor. Rath, a state co-chairman, shared some insight into the Republican presidential hopeful's organization and the use of data-mining technology to target likely voters.
A campaign needs to be precise, focused and patient because, he said, “New Hampshire voters will decide when they're ready to decide.”
John Weaver, chief strategist for Kasich, said the data-mining technology complements traditional campaign operations. The idea is to reach out to potential supporters, leverage their connections and build relationships, he said.
The technology indicates where a campaign is strongest and drills down to the demographics, said John E. Sununu, a former U.S. senator who is Kasich's state chairman. He said the data provides a more objective layer, but experience and expertise remain key to the roadmap.
“Those instincts still fit,” he said.
The traditional “ground game,” including knocking on doors and campaign-literature drops, is still a core component. At the end of the day, it's the candidate and his message. Sununu said Kasich's record as a conservative who has cut taxes and balanced budgets resonates with Republican primary voters.
The Kasich campaign says it has made more than 600,000 voter ID and volunteer recruitment calls so far. It has 14 full-time staff members, and four field offices, with another two opening soon.
New Day for America, a super PAC that is supporting Kasich, is also on the ground in New Hampshire. The PAC, which operates independently of the campaign, has 15 full-time staff members, many of whom have been on the job since August.
The Super PAC is integrating and refining its data to try to identify what a Kasich voter looks like, including what messaging resonates with them.
Its data-mining program, via the analytics company “Applecart,” provides a snapshot of a person's network with the goal of targeting messages, said Grant Shaffer, state director for New Day for America.
“Pound for pound, I don't think anyone can compete with us,” Shaffer said.
The 2016 race is unique in terms of super PACs supporting candidates in unaffiliated fashion, from field work to funding political ads. Some include “Right to Rise” for former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, “America Leads” for N.J. Gov. Chris Christie, “Conservative Solutions PAC” for Sen. Marco Rubio, and “Carly for America” for former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina.
All the campaigns, in one form or another, are working to seal the deal with the nation's first voters.
The “get-out-the-vote” efforts started long ago. For example, Democrat Hillary Clinton's campaign has held canvassing events every weekend since July.
Much has changed since 2000, when Weaver worked for John McCain and the Republican won the first of his two New Hampshire primaries. Weaver, now on his fourth New Hampshire primary, said campaigns are more sophisticated and more efficient in targeting voters and issues.
In 2000, the idea was to create a kind of crusade and make it as big as possible. Today, campaigns are able to be more streamlined and use technology to stretch resources further, Weaver said.
Some of the questions are the same. What's it going to take to win?
Former U.S. Sen. Gordon Humphrey, a New Hampshire co-chair for Kasich, believes that the data-mining software and the intensive focus on towns and cities will spur voter turnout on primary day, Feb. 9, 2016.
Humphrey said that expanding on the base of support, however small the increments, is critical given the number of well-known candidates on the ballot. That also underscores the value of voter targeting and, in a state where voters tend to decide who they're voting for late in the process, the efforts to reach out to people multiple times.
“It's going to be a photo finish,” he said.
©2015 The New Hampshire Union Leader (Manchester, N.H.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.