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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Cave

In writing about what struck as the president's essential aloofness, I said there were echoes of it even in his organization. I referred to a recent hiring notice from the Obama 2012 campaign. "It read like politics as done by Martians. The 'Analytics Department' is looking for 'predictive Modeling/Data Mining' specialists to join the campaign's 'multi-disciplinary team of statisticians,' which will use 'predictive modeling' to anticipate the behavior of the electorate. 'We will analyze millions of interactions a day, learning from terabytes of historical data, running thousands of experiments, to inform campaign strategy and critical decisions.' "
This struck me as "high tech and bloodless." I didn't quite say it, but it all struck me as inhuman, unlike any politics I'd ever seen.
It was unlike any politics I'd ever seen. And it won the 2012 campaign. Those "Martians" were reinventing how national campaigns are done. They didn't just write a new political chapter with their Internet outreach, vote-tracking data-mining and voter engagement, especially in the battleground states. They wrote a whole new book. And it was a masterpiece.
Hats off. In some presidential elections, something big changes, and if you're watching close you can learn a lesson. This was mine: The national game itself has changed. And it's probably going to be a while before national Republicans can duplicate or better what the Democrats have done.
In the immediate aftermath of the 2012 presidential campaign – like any campaign – two things happened: the winners went to bragging and the losers started pointing fingers. One thing became clear. Obama for America’s digital, technology, and analytics teams were indispensable in securing the president’s reĆ«lection.
OFA was, far and away, the most sophisticated political organization on the planet. And Republicans needed to learn from them. So we set about gathering insights, data, and anecdotes from hundreds of news articles, blog posts, interviews, podcasts, and presentations. Our findings have been collected and organized into a single slide deck called Inside the Cave, which you can download here.
The Cave is what OFA called the windowless room that housed their analytics team. Like digital in 2008, analytics came of age in the 2012 campaign. OFA’s analytics team had 50 staffers. By comparison, the Romney-Ryan campaign had a data team of 4 people.
Mashable sums up lessons from the slide deck.  One involves campaign finance:
Obama raised $690 million online in 2012, almost $200 million more than he did four years ago. More individuals donated online and the average donation was up from $126 to $156. How did Obama's team pull that off? Put simply: Testing and anxiety. EngageDC boiled it down to a three-step process:

1. Send A LOT more email than 2008 (at least 404 national fundraising emails in 2012).
2. Test everything.
3. Make people think they were going to lose.
Here is a June 26 fundraising email:
 I will be the first president in modern history to be outspent in his re-election campaign, if things continue as they have so far.
I'm not just talking about the super PACs and anonymous outside groups -- I'm talking about the Romney campaign itself. Those outside groups just add even more to the underlying problem.
The Romney campaign raises more than we do, and the math isn't hard to understand: Through the primaries, we raised almost three-quarters of our money from donors giving less than $1,000, while Mitt Romney's campaign raised more than three-quarters of its money from individuals giving $1,000 or more.
And, again, that's not including the massive outside spending by super PACs and front groups funneling up to an additional billion dollars into ads trashing me, you, and everything we believe in.
We can be outspent and still win -- but we can't be outspent 10 to 1 and still win.
More than 2.2 million Americans have already chipped in for us, and I'm so grateful for it. As we face this week's fundraising deadline, please make a donation of $3 or more today.
Every donation you make today automatically enters you to join Michelle and me for one of the last grassroots dinners of this campaign -- today is your last chance to get your name in.
These dinners represent how we do things differently. My opponent spent this past weekend at a secretive retreat for the biggest donors to both his campaign and the super PACs that support him.
I've got other responsibilities I'm attending to.
Donate today to stand for our kind of politics:
https://donate.barackobama.com/June-Deadline
Thank you,
Barack