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KLRU-TV, Austin PBS, creates innovative television that inspires and educates not just in Austin, but throughout al! of Texas. KLRU explores politics with Texas Monthly Talks; makes learning fun with The Biscuit Brothers and Central Texas Gardener; and showcases live music with Austin City Limits. Look for these KLRU programs on your local PBS stations. [\(fru tv and beyond Sialvoksv, … most votershow likely they are to vote in the first place, and how likely they are to vote for his candidate. The campaign can then decide if it wants to target voters who are impulsive \(vote 50 percent Democrat and 50 percent the campaign may go after people who vote, say, only 55 percent of the time, but when they do, they will almost certainly The analysis is more precise than traditional methods. Instead of measuring by large voting precincts, Beatty can isolate residential areas, certain blocks, and even specific houses. That gives a campaign more flexibility to target, say, a set of four houses, instead of going after an entire precinct. A campaign can go after persuadable voters even within unfriendly precincts. For Donna Howard’s race, Beatty’s numbers revealed that District 48 wasn’t quite as Republican as the campaign had originally thought. The numbers also revealed a voting population wealthier than average, more educated than average, more politically astute, and majority female. Fero, Howard’s consultant, gleaned from this information that he could craft a complex message that highlighted Republican failures on public education. Howard’s initial message”If you want change, vote for it”was geared toward astute voters since it assumed knowledge of previous failures on public school finance. Fero and his partner, Jeff Hewitt, then created a media strategy, eschewing campaign mailers and broadcast television commercials for a limited ad buy on cable stations such as Lifetime that attract women viewers. Hewitt and Fero like cable because it’s cheaper and they can specify ad buys by neighborhood. Ads on Austin’s network affiliates, meanwhile, are more expensive, and only a fraction of the viewers live in the district. “My male friends were asking me when we were going up on the air. We had been on the air two weeks already, but they weren’t seeing it on ESPN,” Fero says. He believes that effective targeting helped the Howard campaign erase two of the GOP’s inherent advantages in Texasa majority of Republican voters in many districts, and a surplus of major campaign donors. The Howard campaign’s targeting was spot on. Turnout in the special election was extremely low only about 9 percent of eligible voters went to the polls. Usually, the GOPso adept at turning out its base support flourishes in low-turnout affairs such as this. But Howard turned the tables, effectively targeting and energizing the district’s Democrats and disenchanted Republicans in a decisive win. Critics of targeting contend that its effects are over-hyped. For instance, several Democratic consultants argue that targeting had little to do with Howard’s victory. They point out that District 48 has been trending Democratic for several years. They also note that the Travis County Democratic Party sent campaign mailers using traditional voter ID methods supporting Howard that had more impact than her campaign’s limited cable advertising. “Other factors are much more importantthe quality of the candidate, the relative win-ability of the district, the message you choose,” says the TTLA’s Tidwell. “Data mining could be most useful in statewide races where resources are relatively scarce. Its value in legislative races is marginal, and we’re shying away from it because of the danger of over-targeting and over-reliance. There’s a danger of not communicating with enough voters. You either have a good message, or you don’t. The audience just doesn’t need to be segmented that much.” Fero responds that data mining doesn’t shrink the electorate at all, but ratherby targeting “persuadable” votersexpands the number of voters a campaign communicates with. He concedes that data mining alone can’t win an electiona campaign still needs a good candidate, a good message, and a good media strategy. “You shouldn’t use it as a crutch,” he says. For proponents of targeting, the debate comes down to whether a party that has been losing elections for years wants to try something new, change its strategy. “It’s an old school-new school deal in Texas Democratic politics,” Fero says. Howard sees little reason for debate. She says it would have been difficult to win such a high percentage of votes in a Republican-leaning district without effective targeting. “Clearly we were attracting beyond the [Democratic] base,” Howard says. “If [Democrats] are going to turn the tide and start winning elections, you can’t keep doing the same things and expect a different result.” SEPTEMBER 8, 2006 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 31