The system was different from Narwhal. It was designed to allow Romney poll watchers, in real time, to identify likely Romney supporters who still had not shown up at polling stations on Election Day. By uploading the names of people who had voted, the computers back in Boston could figure out who still needed to be targeted and turned out.

At least that’s the way it was supposed to work. But on Tuesday, it became clear that the deployment of Orca was doing more harm than good. …

The Romney high command had cloaked the system in secrecy to maintain what it hoped would be a true competitive turnout advantage. But by limiting the number of people with access to Orca, the campaign was not able to train its field operatives to use it or do the necessary beta-testing to work out the kinks that typically plague new software. …

“We were sold on Mitt as this brilliant manager and turnaround artist,” said John Ekdahl, one of those poll watchers in Florida who used Orca. “But it was a snake-oil kind of program. I say this as a Web developer. This was throwing money at a product that just didn’t work.” Ekdahl first published his critique of Orca on the conservative website Ace of Spades. Other poll watchers who asked not to be named had similar complaints.

The mood grew increasingly grim on Tuesday as Romney officials realized that their supposed state-of-the-art answer to the Chicago’s turnout juggernaut was a bust.