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Campaign 2016: Opposition research takes on new importance

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – Social media has changed the way campaigns communicate with voters, and much of that communication is based on what is called “opposition research.”

Every campaign has an opposition researcher and they’ve been around almost since elections began. They dig up the dirt on opposing candidates and this year, for the first time, both Republicans and Democrats in Indiana have opposition researchers who also share their findings directly with the voters.

We’re all used to the attack ads that use video supplied by so-called “oppo” researchers, and the ones that cite statistics, votes, or newspaper headlines that were supplied by someone doing “oppo” research.

But now some of the tweets challenging candidate statements come from an opposition researcher and so do media releases that are sent to newsrooms around the state.

“Because you’re not only developing the message for your candidate, you’re trying to define your opponent,” said John Gregg campaign spokesman, Jeff Harris, “and I think both campaigns have done that certainly in the governor’s race, you see that in the U.S. Senate race.”

“I mean it used to be there were a few guys that did it, and they lived in basements of libraries, and never saw the sun, and those were the guys that did opposition research,” said GOP researcher Marcus Barlow, “but anymore all of this information is publicly available.”

On the national level, it’s opposition research that has developed the information regarding donations to the Clinton Foundation.

And on the other side, researchers have combed through Donald Trump’s business dealings.

Campaigns also routinely conduct self research to determine what might come up during a campaign. Donald Trump wouldn’t permit his campaign to do it, according to recent reports.

And, the reports say, that’s why the Trump campaign was unprepared to deal with charges that he mistreated women.