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The Endless Primary: Good For the Democrats

In the midst of all the hand wringing about how "the primary must end," I’ll admit that I mostly want it over just because I’m tired of it. But as Holly Yeager points out over at The Prospect today, having high turnout in states where primary results usually don’t matter is giving Democrats a tremendous advantage when it come to voter identification:

Each time a new registration form was completed, McQuarrie said it was photocopied at the local Obama headquarters before it was turned in to local election officials. That’s standard operating practice, but with 300,000 new Democrats registered in the state since the start of the year, the information collected — and entered into campaign databases — is staggering.

McDonald said switching party registration and voting in a primary send strong signals about a voter’s intentions. "Seeing this marker laid down in a primary that somebody will participate means that yes, they are definitely going to be there in the general election."

No matter who the Democratic nominee is, their campaign will have access to the DNC’s file, and will likely tap these core voters, McDonald said. "Between now and the general election, they are going to go back and mine these people for volunteers and donations."

But while the data collected throughout the primaries will help identify reliable Democratic voters, it will also help the eventual Democratic nominee know which voters still need to be persuaded. "This information allows Democrats to shift their resources more toward expanding their base," McDonald said. "The McCain campaign is going to have to spend some resources just to identify its supporters."

I wrote yesterday about Catalist, the Harold Ickes database supported by MoveOn, labor unions and other organizations and its growing sophistication. Separate from that, the DNC also announced details in its new Neighborhood Volunteer Program, which begins phased rollout this week. Basically, if you go to the DNC site to volunteer and punch in your address, the names of 25 of your neighbors will appear on the screen. The system will ask you for any information you have about them that can be used to target them for outreach.

All of this is making the Democrats competitive with the Republicans, who have had a leg up in their ability to drill down into voter information for years with their Voter Vault, which they’ve been developing since the mid-1990s. As irritating as the extended primary battle is, it may wind up actually giving the Dems a tactical advantage in the general.

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Jane Hamsher

Jane Hamsher

Jane is the founder of Firedoglake.com. Her work has also appeared on the Huffington Post, Alternet and The American Prospect. She’s the author of the best selling book Killer Instinct and has produced such films Natural Born Killers and Permanent Midnight. She lives in Washington DC.
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