When Democrat Barack Obama beat John McCain for the presidency in 2008 and was re-elected four years later, much credit was given to his campaign’s crack tech staff for their ability to use data to the campaign’s advantage for such things as finely targeting campaign ads.
In the second campaign, the tech team relied heavily on Amazon(AMZN) Web Services to do heavy lifting; Puppet to configure their systems; New Relic(NEWR) to analyze application performance; and Chartbeat to analyze web site performance, among other technologies. After the election, Obama For America data whizzes talked to packed tech conferences about their accomplishments — at an Amazon event in November 2012, they were practically treated like rockstars.
Since 2004, Republicans have tried to neutralize or reverse this perceived Democratic advantage by seeking out their own tech superstars, but they have not been able to close the skill gap, according to a New York Times report citing University of North Carolina research that parses data from LinkedIn (LNKD), the Federal Election Commission, and other sources. For example, Democratic campaigns have hired 503 people with data and analytics expertise since 2004, while Republicans have snapped up just 123 of these experts, according to the UNC report.
And after the campaigns ended, Democratic tech staffers went on to start 75 companies, compared with only 19 for their Republican counterparts. That’s an important fact given the revolving door nature of politics — it could mean that Hillary Clinton, or whoever the next Democratic candidate is, may have a bench that’s even deeper in digital talent to draw from in 2016.