DNC's Top Data Guy Coached to Stress Party Neutrality in Primary

Sam McCabe Was Told to Say DNC Has 'Always Been Neutral' Before May Event

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Even the Democratic National Committee's top data guy was told to portray the party as a neutral partner to both candidates in the presidential primary. According to emails sent among DNC staff exposed by WikiLeaks, before DNC's data services director Sam McCabe spoke at an event in May, he was handed some talking points. In particular, he was told not to talk about the Democratic primary other than to insist both the Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders campaigns were getting equal treatment by the party:

"And Q&A for what NOT to talk about: Primary on Dem side -- other than to say we're working with both of our campaigns and have always been neutral."

The May 12 email was sent by DNC Communications Director Luis Miranda to DNC staff including Mr. McCabe.

Former DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz.
Former DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz. Credit: Debbie Wasserman-Schultz

DNC emails leaked to WikiLeaks by hackers and made public Friday have incited a firestorm as the party holds its convention this week. Some of the emails reveal bias against the Bernie Sanders campaign throughout the primary season, even as party spokespeople -- including now-deposed DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz -- insisted there was an even playing field for both campaigns.

When the talking points emails were sent, Mr. McCabe was booked to speak on a panel at a Microsoft event entitled, "@Microsoft Conversation On Campaign Cutting Edge: Voter Persuasion Modeling" on May 18 that would also include Jesse Kamzol, the Republican National Committee's data director.

When addressing a data breach incident that occurred late last year, Mr. McCabe was also told to emphasize the party's equal treatment. In December, the Sanders campaign filed a lawsuit against the DNC after the party temporarily banned the campaign from accessing its voter data following a data breach incident allowing Sanders staff to access Clinton campaign data. The Sanders campaign later withdrew the lawsuit.

If asked about the "December incident," Mr. McCabe was told to say:

"We've moved past it and working well with both of our campaigns. AND campaigns up and down the ballot. All of that is feeding into our modeling heading into the general election, which gives us a big advantage over the GOP, who have not been using the same list, don't have agreements with all the states, and have had a fragmented approach to the interfaces their campaigns have used."

Indeed, party communications staff prompted Mr. McCabe to highlight Republican data setbacks, in particular how the Donald Trump campaign's apparent disinterest in data could exacerbate them.

Suggested "talking points" included in a May 18 email sent by Eric Walker, deputy communications director for the DNC, to Mr. McCabe and other DNC staff, alluded to an AP story quoting Mr. Trump calling the use of data by Barack Obama's presidential campaigns "overrated."

Mr. Walker suggested Mr. McCabe hold Mr. Kamzol's feet to the fire during the panel discussion. "I would hammer home this point from Trump and put the RNC guy on the spot," stated Mr. Walker.

DNC staff did not respond to requests for comment.

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