WASHINGTON – Did the failure of Mitt Romney’s campaign ground game cost the GOP the White House?
With more than six weeks to go before Obama’s second inaugural, the mid-term 2014 election season appears to have already kicked off, anticipating an equally unprecedented early start to the 2016 presidential campaign.
WND has learned that beginning next week, top Republican donors will be conducting their own “autopsy” of the Romney campaign in an effort to determine how better to spend their precious resources to extend a Republican majority in the House of Representatives and win a Republican majority in the Senate in 2014 as a prelude to recapturing the White House in 2016.
The initial stages of the GOP post-mortem of the Romney presidential campaign defeat have focused on what Erik Erickson, writing in Red State has described as a group of consultants – including Crossroads Media, a media services firm tied to the American Crossroads Super PAC championed by Karl Rove – engaging in incestuous bleeding of the Republican Party. It’s a debacle Ben Howe, also writing in Red State, has less generously described as a “con job.”
The idea of a group of ineffective Republican “consultants” feeding off generous campaign contributions is certain to offend GOP donors who sought victory in backing Romney.
But the GOP embarrassment includes the realization that Romney, a candidate who predicated much of his election hopes on touting a successful business career, was outdone by Barack Obama, at best a “community organizer,” in the mechanics of managing what political pros call “GOTV,” or “Get Out the Vote.”
Romney campaign chief strategist Stuart Stevens, in an opinion piece published Wednesday in the Washington Post, rejected the proposition Obama defeated Romney because of superior voter intelligence technology, describing Obama as “a charismatic African-American president with a billion dollars, no primary and media that often felt morally conflicted about being critical.”
On Thursday, Stevens was more direct in rejecting the contention the computer-generated GOTV system devised by Obama consultants Jim Messina and David Plouffe was responsible for Obama’s successful reelection campaign, pointing out that Obama received 4.5 million voters fewer in 2012 than in 2008.
“At face value, when they turned out more voters four years ago than they did this time, I would give them more credit for their message in those states rather than just their ground game,” Stevens told the CBS “This Morning” show, as reported by Politico. “I think it’s somewhat underselling what the Obama campaign did with their messaging campaign.”
In both statements, Stevens insisted Romney won every income group above $50,000-a-year, achieved a 17-point swing among voters younger than 30 and carried seniors by a large margin.
As WND reported, Stevens and the Romney campaign went into Election Day confident of victory, not anticipating that their computer-based GOTV system, code-named OCRA, had crashed, leaving thousands of volunteers in the field unable to bring to the polls likely Romney supporters who had not yet voted.
“We know OCRA was not tested properly because it failed,” computer expert John Ekdahl, who has published a scathing review of the Romney GOTV computer system, told WND in an exclusive interview.
“The Romney campaign did not properly train the volunteers how to use the OCRA system,” he said. “Remarkably, the program was not made operative until Election Day.”
Ekdahl was particularly critical of the Romney campaign’s assumption that the computerized GOTV system would work flawlessly on Election Day, even though no one had bothered to proof out fundamental practical realities.
“Sure, the Romney campaign held training sessions and there were conference calls, but that’s not enough,” he explained. “You need to have people in the field play with the system in advance, so they and you know technically the system works. The Romney campaign did no checking into how technically advanced the volunteer users were. The campaign didn’t even bother to find out if the volunteers had iPads.”
Mack Shwab, a partner at VoterIntel, a computerized GOTV field system being developed in Louisville, Ky., also provided insight into why the Romney team failed.
“An effective GOTV system has to start in the field,” Shwab told WND. “Campaign field workers have to be able to hold in their hands easy-to-use technology that allows them to accomplish the most basic campaign field operations, starting with canvassing precincts on foot to contact prospective voters in person.”
Using handheld tablet and smart phone technology, the VoterIntel system gives campaign field canvassers a portable technology that permits them to locate prospective voters and input data on voter demographics, voter preferences and opinions.
From there, the VoterIntel system can integrate with more conventional census-derived voter demographics, as well as data from polls and information gathered from social networking sites, including Facebook and Twitter.
Still, the focus is on developing a practical technology that is adapted to the realities of campaign GOTV efforts in the field.
“Not all field volunteers in a campaign are made equal,” Shwab emphasized.
“Differing physical capabilities equate to differing walking rates. Less physically fit volunteers may not visit all homes assigned. Less engaged volunteers may abandon the walk altogether, leaving gaps in the data gathered. Motivated and physically fit volunteers may finish their assigned work early, leaving potential volunteer hours on the table.”
But by designing the computer-based GOTV system from the ground up, the VoterIntel system emphasizes the handheld technology the volunteer takes into the field, not the sophistication of the computer database system in the campaign headquarters.
Shwab believes that designing the system from the field up avoids the problem Romney had when volunteers were left not knowing what to do after the headquarters computer crashed.
“What we are trying to do is to computerize the traditional walk book by applying computer technology so specific homes are assigned to specific volunteers who have participated in creating the database from the ground up,” Shwab stressed.
Granted, Romney got more votes than McCain did running against Obama, but still the total came up short.
In the final analysis, the Obama team did a superior job of knowing who their voters were and how to get them to the polls.
Despite the much-touted computer sophistication of the Obama team, the Obama victory strategy did not deviate far from traditional interest group, bottom-up politics.
Obama voters were an identifiable modern-day version of the FDR coalition – inner city minorities, Hispanics, union workers and single women.
These are precisely the type of voters Democratic Party precinct bosses in the Windy City have been successful for decades in getting to the polls with shoe-leather politics, long before computers were invented.
In contrast, the Romney campaign is left with having invested millions of dollars into a GOTV computer system so flawed that no post-mortem is likely to figure out which high-priced consultant should bear the brunt of the blame.