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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Romney Draws on Obama, Who Draws on Brown

In the primaries, Romney’s advisers had little confidence that there was much logic at all behind his rivals’ moves, and the two-time candidate outmaneuvered analytically amateurish opponents with well-plotted discipline and attention to detail. Now forced to play catch-up against a savvy incumbent, Romney’s team acknowledges they are not aiming to match what Obama has built in Chicago: A unique, in-house analytical empire that has developed an unrivaled capacity to churn through voter data and translate insights into tactics. Because of this capacity, Romney advisers assume that what they see the president doing in public must have a good deal of sense behind it. "The Obama team had the luxury of knowing exactly what they'd be doing on July 1, 2012 because they've been planning for six years—definitely three-and-a-half years,” says Zac Moffatt, Romney’s digital director. So instead of devoting their analytical energies to out-strategizing the president, Romney’s advisers are trying to hack Obama’s code and turn it against him.

As the dataset of Obama activity expands over the course of the campaign, the burden of finding those patterns will shift from the eyes of advisers huddled in weekly meetings to the statistical models they’ve written. Algorithms will test the association between vote goals and the candidates’ travel and ad placement, staring through Obama’s visible tactics to reveal a latent strategy beneath.
At the Los Angeles Times, David Lauter analyzes the Bain attacks as a way for Obama to turn white working-class voters away from Romney:
Obama aides have pointed to a couple of models, including the way California Gov. Jerry Brown defeated Meg Whitman, another wealthy corporate executive and a friend of Romney's, in 2010. Another is the way President George W. Bush's campaign portrayed Democratic Sen. John F. Kerry in 2004 as a rich elite who was out of touch with average Americans.
The Bain attacks further that strategy on two levels. The Obama campaign has been saying at least since January that companies Bain Capital took over had eliminated thousands of jobs. The Romney campaign's answer has been that Bain invested in those companies after 1999, when Romney left active management to run the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics.
That's where last week's attacks began. After the Boston Globe published an article that showed Romney had remained Bain's chief executive for three years after the Olympics, an argument over Bain's record quickly shifted to focus on Romney's truthfulness.
Romney's defense as it evolved over the weekend — that he had remained chief executive but hadn't taken an active role in management and had "retroactively resigned," as one advisor said, in 2002 — may only have reinforced in some voters' minds that his life and his concerns are far distant from theirs.