- The peculiar cycle of Senate elections
- Republicans threw away seats in 2010 and 2012
- This time, they might not.
To really understand what happened behind the scenes at the Obama campaign, you need to know a little bit about its organizational structure. Tech was Harper Reed's domain. "Digital" was Joe Rospars' kingdom; his team was composed of the people who sent you all those emails, designed some of the consumer-facing pieces of BarackObama.com, and ran the campaigns' most-excellent accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, video, and the like. Analytics was run by Dan Wagner, and those guys were responsible for coming up with ways of finding and targeting voters they could persuade or turn out. Jeremy Bird ran Field, the on-the-ground operations of organizing voters at the community level that many consider Obama's secret sauce . The tech for the campaign was supposed to help the Field, Analytics, and Digital teams do their jobs better. Tech, in a campaign or at least this campaign or perhaps any successful campaign, has to play a supporting role. The goal was not to build a product. The goal was to reelect the President. As Reed put it, if the campaign were Moneyball, he wouldn't be Billy Beane, he'd be "Google Boy."
Often, people get excited about being “data-driven” but only go part way. If you’re asking for a “data driven” ad buy to women 35 to 49, how do you know women 35 to 49 are the right target? Did you test it? The reason you collect data is to optimize based on probability. Instead, try placing an ad designed to reach individuals with a score of 70 or more on your persuadability model. The targeting itself also needs to be done probabilistically.
The culture shift needed in politics is not one of technology. Everyone loves technology and wants more of it, because it lets you to do whatever you’re doing more efficiently. The problem is that what you’re doing could be the wrong thing. Applied the wrong way, technology helps you run very fast in the wrong direction.
[O]nly a small percentage of voters actually switched sides between 2008 and 2010. Moreover, there were almost as many John McCain voters who voted for a Democratic House candidate in 2010 as there were Obama voters who shifted the other way. That may be a surprise to some, but it comes from one of the largest longitudinal study of voters, YouGov’s Cooperative Campaign Analysis Project (C.C.A.P.), for which YouGov interviewed 45,000 people at multiple points during 2011 and 2012.
The results clearly show that voters in 2010 did not abandon the Democrats for the other side, but they did forsake the party in another important way: Many stayed home.