WASHINGTON -- The hour was growing late one March night and still neither party knew who had won a key special election in Pennsylvania, where only a few thousand votes separated the candidates. So Dan Sena -- executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee -- turned to his chief number-cruncher for answers.
He handed her a note that showed how many absentee ballots each county had yet to count in the race between Democrat Conor Lamb and Republican Rick Saccone.
"I took the Post-It note, and with some number-crunching and math, found we would probably gain 300 votes," Claire Low, the DCCC's targeting and analytics director, would say months later.
Sena would soon publicly declare victory, catching reporters and political operatives by surprise in a contest that still looked too close to call. But he knew the members of his data and analytics team understood the numbers and trusted them to make the right call.
It wouldn't be the last time that they would prove him right.
At every step of the 2018 election, House Democrats at the DCCC relied heavily on a data and analytics team that guided the committee through two years of tumultuous politics and an ever-fluctuating path back to the majority.
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The results speak for themselves: Democrats gained 40 House seats, a gargantuan total for a party once hoping to simply eke out 23 seats necessary for a majority. They were the party's largest House gains in a single campaign since 1974.
DCCC officials were also delighted that, in an election where the party earned overwhelming support for women and benefited from a surge of female candidates, the team analyzing the numbers behind-the-scenes was also led by three women: Rosa Mendoza, who ran the analytics team at the group's independent expenditure operation, Amber Carrier, the group's director of polling and modeling, and Low, the targeting director.
"We set out to do things differently, and I'm proud that we hired a historically diverse DCCC team this cycle, including a women-run polling and analytics team that is the best in the business," Sena said.
The data and analytics team delivered a litany of important strategic insights for House Democrats, such as prioritizing a race in Virginia's 7th Congressional District (where the party's nominee was a narrow victory) over one in Virginia's 5th Congressional District (where the Democrat lost by more than six points), or warning candidates that many Cuban-American voters weren't as negative about President Donald Trump as they might expect while insisting that candidates in Texas mention the GOP leader when communicating with suburban women.