Every bright-eyed presidential candidate deserves some top-shelf data at the start of the campaign. Alone in his hotel room, hoarse and exhausted, he lays it like a bridal trousseau: a portrait of just the kind of voter he's courting.
For Mitt Romney, the acquisition and cultivation of data was time and money well spent. Having all but clinched the Republican nomination with his win in Wisconsin this week, the ludicrously handsome Mormon chief executive has coalesced something that might credibly be called Romney's America. And he did it with data—digital, hypergranular data, not mere polling. Back in January when Gingrich and Santorum were still on his heels, Romney set loose a team of metadata-crunchers to find out who was persuadable. Who belonged to his righter-wing rivals. Who was sticking with Barack Obama.
That's how he came to learn about his people's online browsing habits. As The New York Times reported this week, would-be Romniacs evidently like to take online quizzes. They also poke around the Internet looking for lore on technology, literature, home repair and child care. To find out still more, the campaign brought on board a private company that uses data about browsing habits to craft advertising tailored to individual Web users.