by John Hawkins | November 14, 2012 6:14 am
The GOP is behind the Democrats in numbers and one of the biggest ones is our get-out-the-vote and fund raising effort. In fact, it is entirely possible that if Mitt Romney had Barack Obama’s GOTV campaign in place while Obama was saddled the disastrous Project ORCA that the GOP used, it might have been enough to swing the entire election.
Sound preposterous? Well, keep in mind that Project Orca wasn’t as good as Obama’s campaign to begin with, was poorly executed and crashed in swing states all across the country on election day. Meanwhile, these excerpts will give you an idea of how sophisticated the Democratic GOTV campaigns have become.
In late spring, the backroom number crunchers who powered Barack Obama’s campaign to victory noticed that George Clooney had an almost gravitational tug on West Coast females ages 40 to 49. The women were far and away the single demographic group most likely to hand over cash, for a chance to dine in Hollywood with Clooney – and Obama.
So as they did with all the other data collected, stored and analyzed in the two-year drive for re-election, Obama’s top campaign aides decided to put this insight to use. They sought out an East Coast celebrity who had similar appeal among the same demographic, aiming to replicate the millions of dollars produced by the Clooney contest. “We were blessed with an overflowing menu of options, but we chose Sarah Jessica Parker,” explains a senior campaign adviser.
…But from the beginning, campaign manager Jim Messina had promised a totally different, metric-driven kind of campaign in which politics was the goal but political instincts might not be the means. “We are going to measure every single thing in this campaign,” he said after taking the job. He hired an analytics department five times as large as that of the 2008 operation, with an official “chief scientist” for the Chicago headquarters named Rayid Ghani, who in a previous life crunched huge data sets to, among other things, maximize the efficiency of supermarket sales promotions.×
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…Early on, for example, the campaign discovered that people who had unsubscribed from the 2008 campaign e-mail lists were top targets, among the easiest to pull back into the fold with some personal attention. The strategists fashioned tests for specific demographic groups, trying out message scripts that they could then apply. They tested how much better a call from a local volunteer would do than a call from a volunteer from a non—swing state like California. As Messina had promised, assumptions were rarely left in place without numbers to back them up.
…The magic tricks that opened wallets were then repurposed to turn out votes. The analytics team used four streams of polling data to build a detailed picture of voters in key states. In the past month, said one official, the analytics team had polling data from about 29,000 people in Ohio alone – a whopping sample that composed nearly half of 1% of all voters there – allowing for deep dives into exactly where each demographic and regional group was trending at any given moment. This was a huge advantage: when polls started to slip after the first debate, they could check to see which voters were changing sides and which were not.
It was this database that helped steady campaign aides in October’s choppy waters, assuring them that most of the Ohioans in motion were not Obama backers but likely Romney supporters whom Romney had lost because of his September blunders. “We were much calmer than others,” said one of the officials. The polling and voter-contact data were processed and reprocessed nightly to account for every imaginable scenario. “We ran the election 66,000 times every night,” said a senior official, describing the computer simulations the campaign ran to figure out Obama’s odds of winning each swing state. “And every morning we got the spit-out – here are your chances of winning these states. And that is how we allocated resources.”
The data crunchers at Wal-Mart can tell you how much they’re making per square foot of shelf space in a particular department. They can tell the effect of moving a product from the top shelf, to the bottom shelf. They can do the same sort of thing with fliers that are mailed to their customers. A thirty year old single mother may be sent an advertisement that pushes baby clothes and formula, while a single male of the same age has electronics promoted in same space. This is the sort of marketing research that the Obama campaign applied to its fund raising and GOTV efforts.
The good news is that if the GOP is smart and hires the right people (Ha, ha, ha), it should be able to come close to matching these efforts by the mid-terms. Go to Amazon, Facebook, Wal-Mart, Kmart, Food Lion, etc., etc., hire away 3-4 of the data crunchers who do this stuff for a living, give them a crew of statistics nerd to work with and turn them loose. Since the Democrats are ahead of us in this area, we have a lot more room to grow than they do and it’s entirely possible we could have a much bigger than expected fund raising and turnout bump in the next couple of elections….IF we don’t keep insisting on continuing to make the same mistakes because so many of the people with sway in the GOP are uncomfortable with technology.
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