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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Mobilization: F-Troop and A-Team

Sean Trende suggests a hypothesis (subject to inspection of exit polls and the complete vote count):
But most importantly, the 2012 elections actually weren’t about a demographic explosion with non-white voters. Instead, they were about a large group of white voters not showing up.
As of this writing, Barack Obama has received a bit more than 60 million votes. Mitt Romney has received 57 million votes. Although the gap between Republicans and Democrats has closed considerably since 2008, Romney is still running about 2.5 million votes behind John McCain; the gap has closed simply because Obama is running about 9 million votes behind his 2008 totals.

...
Put another way: The increased share of the minority vote as a percent of the total vote is not the result of a large increase in minorities in the numerator, it is a function of many fewer whites in the denominator....
My sense is these voters were unhappy with Obama. But his negative ad campaign relentlessly emphasizing Romney’s wealth and tenure at Bain Capital may have turned them off to the Republican nominee as well. The Romney campaign exacerbated this through the challenger’s failure to articulate a clear, positive agenda to address these voters’ fears, and self-inflicted wounds like the “47 percent” gaffe. Given a choice between two unpalatable options, these voters simply stayed home.
Another possibility is that the Romney campaign could have mobilized  some of these voters but flat-out failed.  At Breitbart.com, Joel Pollak writes:

As Republicans try to explain their Election Day losses in terms of policy, tactics, and strategy, one factor is emerging as the essential difference between the Obama and Romney campaigns on November 6: the absolute failure of Romney’s get-out-the-vote effort, which underperformed even John McCain’s lackluster 2008 turnout. One culprit appears to be “Orca,” the Romney’s massive technology effort, which failed completely.
The Hill reports:
"They [in the Romney camp] had to spend most of their campaign fighting the primary, so the amount of time they had to specifically target and match their message to individual voters and to learn from it was limited," said Andrew Rasiej, the founder of the Personal Democracy Forum, an organization that tracks the intersection of technology and politics.
The Obama campaign "had a major advantage because when you're building big data resources, the longer you're collecting data, the longer you're analyzing data…the smarter the data becomes over time," he said.
The potent combination of data from social media and its email list enabled the Obama campaign to build a profile of potential voters and frame a compelling get-out-the-vote message, both online and off the grid.
"They train their volunteers to have a message at the door that's targeted toward that person at that very moment,” said Rasiej.
Zac Moffatt, the Romney campaign's digital director, said his 120-person team had to employ a different online strategy than the Obama campaign because it was coming off of the Republican primaries.
"They had more resources and they didn't have a primary," Moffatt said. "There was a substantial outspending of dollars online."
At The Monkey Cage, Ryan Enos and Eitan Hersh write of their hands-on study of Obama mobilization efforts (Ground Campaign Project website here):
Our maps will generally conform to other measures of Obama’s state-by-state strategy, such as measures of money, TV ad buys, campaign offices, and candidate visits. However, the measure here is unique in the sense that it is based on internal campaign data. This unique data source may prove to be especially revealing because the Obama campaign has relied so heavily on targeted voter mobilization efforts. These data will allow us to directly observe the mobilization, whereas data on television advertisements, for example, would not.
One lesson we draw from the map is that the campaign took more of an offensive strategy than a defensive one. Even through the end of the campaign season, the campaign was very active in Florida and North Carolina, and never engaged many field staff in Michigan and Wisconsin.