Numerous Republicans in and around the Romney campaign called the ORCA platform a total bust, stranding thousands of volunteers without a way of reporting data back to headquarters and leaving Romney central command without a clear view of developments on the ground.
The system was not shared with officials outside a small group in Boston and was kept largely a secret until the immediate lead-up to Election Day. The system was beta-tested on its own but not within technical infrastructure of the Boston TD Garden, where the Romney campaign’s massive War Room was set up. That accounted for a number of the problems, officials conceded, even as they protested to POLITICO the depth of the Election Day meltdown.
Three sources described the campaign to POLITICO as “flying blind” on Tuesday in terms of targeting, with ORCA — which had a pricetag of hundreds of thousands of dollars — failing. There was another sizable allocation of funds for emergency robocalls to goose turnout late in the day in key areas identified by ORCA, but those were never put to widespread use.John Dickerson writes at Slate that the failure went beyond technology:
How did the Romney team get it so wrong? According to those involved, it was a mix of believing anecdotes about party enthusiasm and an underestimation of their opponents’ talents. The Romney campaign thought Obama’s base had lost its affection for its candidate. They believed Obama would win only if he won over independent voters. So Romney focused on independents and the economy, which was their key issue. The Republican ground game was focused on winning those voters. “We thought the only way to win was doing well with independents and we were kicking ass with independents,” says a top aide. One senior adviser bet me that if Obama won Ohio, he would donate $1,000 per point to my favorite charity. (That would be a $10,000 hit since Romney lost Ohio but won independents by 10 points). In the end, Romney won independents nationally by five points—and it didn’t matter one bit.Dickerson also makes an important point: that the ballot-integrity efforts not only failed in court but also may have backfired badly by stirring hostility to the GOP:
The energetic attempts by Republicans in states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Florida to limit voting in a way that disproportionately penalizes African-American neighborhoods might also have helped turn out the Democratic base. What role these acts played is not entirely clear, but it certainly didn’t hurt the Obama team’s effort to inspire African-American voters.The Wall Street Journal reports:
One top Romney Ohio campaign aide, who declined to be named, also defended the campaign's strategy and attributed the loss to an unexpectedly large turnout among African-American voters.
Exit polls pointed to a rise from 2008 in turnout among black voters, from 13% to 15% of the total Ohio electorate. Still, President Barack Obama is now 38,000 votes shy of his 2008 tally in Cuyahoga County, which includes Cleveland, the city with the state's largest concentration of African-American voters.
Mike Dawson, an Ohio GOP strategist, notes that six of the top 10 counties in which Mr. Romney outperformed George W. Bush's vote count in 2004 were all in southeastern Ohio, where Mr. Romney's pro-coal message resonated.
"But eight of the 10 counties where Romney did worse than Bush were all in the northwest of the state—auto country," Mr. Dawson said, adding that those counties are far more populated than the coal area of the state. "Clearly the auto issue was very significant."
Once all the votes are tallied, total turnout in Ohio may approach what it was in 2008, even including the 75,000 or so Ohio voters who went to the polls but decided not to cast a ballot in the presidential contest.