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November 26, 2012

The Daily Caller Misses the Boat On Orca

Over the holiday weekend, the Daily Caller published a piece on Team Romney's failed Project Orca that can only be described as odd. Well, it can also be described as "late", "incorrect" and "pointless", or, as the cobs refer to it, #DCBreaking (where DC stands for Daily Caller).

Since the piece was also typical of the DC's practice of chumming for hits by being ridiculous, I won't link it, but you'd need a bigger boat (SWIDT) to fit all the errors and strawmen in.

The central point of the piece appears to be that the failure of Project Orca has been seized upon as the reason Romney lost the election. But has anyone really made this claim? The piece was devoid of any links, and we certainly didn't make it here.

So, the end result was that 30,000+ of the most active and fired-up volunteers were wandering around confused and frustrated when they could have been doing anything else to help. Like driving people to the polls, phone-banking, walking door-to-door, etc. We lost by fairly small margins in Florida, Virginia, Ohio and Colorado. If this had worked could it have closed the gap? I sure hope not for my sanity's sake.

The bitter irony of this entire endeavor was that a supposedly small government candidate gutted the local structure of GOTV efforts in favor of a centralized, faceless organization in a far off place (in this case, their Boston headquarters). Wrap your head around that.

We focused from the very beginning on Project Orca itself being a waste of financial and human resources as well as a nonsensical centralization of a task that had been done successfully for decades at the local level.

Put more simply: if Orca was mission critical, it should've been done right, and if it wasn't mission critical, it shouldn't have been done at all. I'm in the latter camp.

But the Orca debacle was also emblematic of a campaign that had serious problems that went beyond the candidate. The root cause was pretty well identified in the Pat F'n Caddell piece RD put in the sidebar this weekend.

“No presidential campaign should be run by consultants,” Caddell said. “They should be run by people who are committed to the candidate and not into making big money.”

See also: Newt (from 2007).

I think Republican consultants are mostly very stupid. I think they have no education. I think they have no sense of history. ... If I throw away African Americans, and then I throw away Latinos, and then I throw away suburban women, and then I throw away people under 40, and then I throw away everything north of Philadelphia -- there's a morning where Republicans can't get to a majority.

Spot on.

We've reached the point where campaign consultants have placed themselves so at odds with the goal of actually winning elections that losing has become a self-fulfilling prophecy. There's no better example of the consultant mindset, IMO, than this statement from Team Orca:

The disturbing pivot on the call was when it was turned over to Rick Beeson, political director, and Zach Moffatt, the campaign's digital director [sic]. They were totally unlike the assessment given by Rhodes and Newhouse. It was at this point the call turned into a furious spin-cycle. We were assaulted with a litany of "metrics":
  • we knocked on 14 million doors
  • we had over 40 million voter contacts
  • we hit all our targets
  • we had X amount more contacts than 2008
  • we had Y amount more contacts than 2004
  • Obama had 6 years to run, we only had 6 months
  • we had to hire over 100 staffers in only 60 days
  • the staff we had is now available to run campaign across the country
  • ORCA had problems, but we now know the exact time people voted, that can be used for future campaigns (emphasis added)

Got that? We lost the big game but our quarterback threw for 300 yards and we converted 85% of our 3rd downs. Who. The hell. Cares? (Bonus video commentary below the fold)

But the boldfaced points are the kicker. We can use the staff and data for future campaigns? What are we running here, a jobs training program? An IT consulting firm?

I want people working for our nominee who treat the race like it's the last campaign ever and the future of the Republic is at stake. People who focus on building their little empires for future campaigns clearly have incentives that are misaligned with the task at hand.

Meanwhile, the Democrats have built a huge technological advantage that, at the very least, will allow them to make more efficient use future campaign contributions. And we have ... Beeson, Moffatt and Orca. That's just swell.

Patrick Ruffini had some good ideas on how to address these problems in a piece at The Atlantic that was followed up on the Coffee and Markets podcast.

The 2012 election should be a wake-up call for those who raise and spend money for the Republican Party.

All too often, how we run campaigns has been untethered from scientific rigor, and without any real-time certainty whether something is working or not. Aggressiveness is praised, and hard-hitting TV ads have come to be seen as the sine qua non of an aggressive campaign. Thanks to this worldview, billions were poured into presidential and down-ballot television advertisements out of a conviction that these ads would move numbers.

Ruffini makes the point in the podcast that the GOP data operation needed to make us competitive in 2016 should be built outside of any campaign and outside of the RNC. Thanks to Team Orca, whoever takes on this monumental task has a bigger hill to climb, but they'd better get on it.

Democrats push to redeploy Obama’s voter database

Democratic super PACs get jump on 2014, 2016


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posted by Andy at 11:38 AM

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