[C]laims that one party or the other has built up a tactical advantage based on the latest in campaign science are always to be taken with a grain of salt. Political scientists have trouble detecting major effects on elections from even the most intensive campaign efforts. Party committees’ boasts about their tactical arsenals are probably largely for the benefit of their donors, who must be reassured their money is going somewhere useful. (Why else would they reveal techniques that surely would be all the more effective if they caught opponents unawares?) As it happens, the DNC is more than $10 million in debt.
But for Democrats, the emphasis on magic tricks is a symptom of something else as well: the difficult landscape the party confronts in 2014. The underlying factors the political scientists look at to make their predictions—a middling economy, an unpopular Democratic president—are stacked against them. Redistricting tilts the House against them, while their Senate incumbents were last elected in 2008, when the heady Obama coattails helped power them to victory in normally red states. The demographic groups from which the party drew its strength in 2012 and 2008—minorities, young people, single women—have been less inclined to vote in non-presidential elections in recent years. And so, to stave off disaster, Democrats need to get more of those people to vote. All the tools in their arsenal—as well as a stable of “election protection” efforts targeting alleged vote suppression—are aimed at finding those latent Democratic voters and shaking them out of their houses.