Actual quote from the video, posted on YouTube the day before the election by PBS: “The Obama campaign likes to brag about their ground operation but it’s nothing compared to this.” Thus is the epitaph for the Romney campaign written. If you missed it yesterday, read John Ekdahl’s post now about the embarrassing failure of ORCA, the biggest letdown among many from Team Mitt’s supposedly sterling organization. They’re in damage-control mode today, insisting that the program worked reasonably well and that they got data from 91% of their precincts, but that’s hard to square with the video. Gitcho says ORCA would ensure that the campaign had more info than the exit polls, and yet there Mitt was at 11 p.m. ET, “shellshocked” to find that he’d lost a race that most recent state polls had suggested he’d surely lose.
In fact, I think it’s time for another story of ORCA’s “success”:
Unable to test her pin number and password until that morning, she discovered, only after after she arrived at the polling location ready to work, that her pin was invalid. She spent until 2:30 that afternoon on calls to Boston every 45 minutes trying to get a new one. She attempted to input the voter information via phone dial-pad–the first backup plan–but her invalid pin number was useless. Plan C, calling in to Boston and verbally transmitting the information, was also a wash. The same phone number for dial pad and voice reporting was given–there was no option to ask to speak to Boston directly after calling in.
After finally getting her pin number in the late afternoon, Shoshanna attempted to log into the site. She had been sent an email from the Romney campaign that morning (after polls opened) telling her that cell phones were often not allowed in polling places, after she was previously warned not to forget to bring her cell phone in other emails. Thankfully, her polling place allowed her to use her cell phone. The website, on a secure server, was inaccessible from her cell phone (Ekdahl explains why in detail). By this point hundreds of voters had passed through Shoshanna’s polling station, unreported. Nevertheless, she went home, retrieved her laptop, and thanks to the pastor at the polling place (a church) she gained access to a locked wireless network. It was only at that point that Shoshanna was able to access ORCA, with only a few hours left before polls closed.
Shoshanna’s experience was far from unique. Starting in the early afternoon, reports were coming in from across swing states that ORCA had crashed.
There’s more where this came from. Try Ricochet for another horror story. Amazingly, despite the fact that it was integral to Romney’s election day GOTV operation, ORCA was allegedly never beta-tested at full scale. Joel Pollak argues that in theory, if Romney’s 37,000 volunteers had each been freed from ORCA misery to deliver just 20 more voters each to the polls, that could have erased Obama’s margin key swing states. But maybe these are all just anecdotes from volunteers who caught unlucky breaks; maybe there’s a bigger picture here that only professionals can see about how well ORCA worked in the aggregate.
Or maybe not:
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…
One Republican source with close ties to the operation said the system essentially appeared to have crashed on the first wave of information coming in, and never managed to get started again. It was down throughout the day, and while it may have been gathering numbers, it never provided the output in terms of target guidance it was supposed to, said a source.
“The problem is not only that it doesn’t work on election day,” said the source. “The problem is, you divert an enormous amount of human and financial resources over many months to [building this]. So that means they’re not doing anything else for turnout.”…
“At the end of the day, they told us that every single swing state was looking either pink or red and the worst one was Virginia, where they were a little concerned. Of course we know the opposite of that happened,” the Republican said. “So what was the quality of that data throughout the day?”
It’s well worth your time to click that last link and read the rest. If you’ve been wondering how Romney could have been so in the dark, even at the end, about how badly he was doing, you won’t be after you’re through. The Daily Beast calls it a “fiasco,” with justification, and connects it up to Romney’s prestige as a managerial Jedi. Anyone looking to get elected on that cred shouldn’t be hearing the words “amateur hour” about his election-day ground game. The difference between what they were doing and what Obama’s team was doing reminds me a bit of the difference between “unskewing the polls” and Nate Silver’s model. Exit quotation: “There’s a sense that we let Mitt Romney down.”