Trickledown Schadenfreude [Now with Even MOAR]
As the Republicans flail around trying to figure out what the hell just happened and where exactly to point their fingers, wonder of wonders, Joel Pollak at Big Government finally has a bona fide scoop—from “a source within the Romney campaign” who detailed some of the problems with its Orca GOTV system:
It’s easy to point fingers after a loss and I wouldn’t normally do it, but consider what happened.
Project Orca was supposed to enable poll watchers to record voter names on their smartphones, by listening for names as voters checked in. This would give the campaign real-time turnout data, so they could redirect GOTV resources throughout the day where it was most needed. They recruited 37,000 swing state volunteers for this.
I worked on the Colorado team, and we were called by hundreds (or more) volunteers who couldn’t use the app or the backup phone system. The usernames and passwords were wrong, but the reset password tool didn’t work, and we couldn’t change phone PINs. We were told the problems were limited and asked to project confidence, have people use pencil and paper, and try to submit again later.
Then at 6PM they admitted they had issued the wrong PINs to every volunteer in Colorado, and reissued new PINs (which also didn’t work). Meanwhile, counties where we had hundreds of volunteers, such as Denver Colorado, showed zero volunteers in the system all day, but we weren’t allowed to add them. In one area, the head of the Republican Party plus 10 volunteers were all locked out. The system went down for a half hour during peak voting, but for hundreds or more, it never worked all day. Many of the poll watchers I spoke with were very discouraged. Many members of our phone bank got up and left.
I do not know if the system was totally broken, or if I just saw the worst of it. But I wonder, because they told us all day that most volunteers were submitting just fine, yet admitted at the end that all of Colorado had the wrong PIN’s. They also said the system projected every swing state as pink or red.
Regardless of the specific difficulties, this idea would only help if executed extremely well. Otherwise, those 37,000 swing state volunteers should have been working on GOTV…
Somebody messaged me privately after my email and told me that North Carolina had the same problems—every pin was wrong and not fixed until 6PM—and was also told it was localized to North Carolina.
John Ekdahl at Ace of Spades gives further insights into how terribly the whole operation was mismanaged.
Once volunteers signed up, they were invited to take part in daily conference calls, but rather than focusing on training, these tended to be cheerleading sessions, with any tactical considerations reduced to answering questions such as would it be OK to wear a red sweatshirt to the polling place. Then there were other minor problems such as this:
On one of the last conference calls (I believe it was on Saturday night), they told us that our packets would be arriving shortly. Now, there seemed to be a fair amount of confusion about what they meant by “packet”. Some people on Twitter were wondering if that meant a packet in the mail or a pdf or what. Finally, my packet arrived at 4PM on Monday afternoon as an emailed 60 page pdf. Nothing came in the mail. Because I was out most of the day, I only got around to seeing it at around 10PM Monday night. So, I sat down and cursed as I would have to print out 60+ pages of instructions and voter rolls on my home printer. Naturally, for reasons I can’t begin to comprehend, my printer would not print in black and white with an empty magenta cartridge (No HP, I will never buy another one of your products ever again). So, at this point I became panicked. I was expected to be at the polls at 6:45AM and nothing was open. I was thankfully able to find a Kinko’s open until 11PM that was able to print it out and bind it for me, but this is not something I should have had to do. They expected 75-80 year old veteran volunteers to print out 60+ pages on their home computers? The night before election day? From what I hear, other people had similar experiences. In fact, many volunteers never received their packets at all.
It got worse:
At 6:30AM on Tuesday, I went to the polls. I was immediately turned away because I didn’t have my poll watcher certificate. Many, many people had this problem. The impression I got was this was taken care of because they had “registered me”. Others were as well. But apparently, I was supposed to go on my own to a Victory Center to pick it up, but that was never communicated properly. Outside of the technical problems, this was the single biggest failure of the operation. They simply didn’t inform people that this was a requirement.
It’s worth giving Ace of Spades the click and reading the rest of Ekdahl’s article if you’re amused by descriptions of extreme ineptitude, but here’s his signoff:
The bitter irony of this entire endeavor was that a supposedly small government candidate gutted the local structure of GOTV efforts in favor of a centralized, faceless organization in a far off place (in this case, their Boston headquarters). Wrap your head around that..
Let’s hear it for community organizers, huh?
Ironies abound. In contrast to the Obama campaign, which had devoted a lot of time and resources over the past few years to building a state-of the-art in-house data mining and GOTV operation that built on and vastly improved its 2008 system—as Michael Scherer at TIME describes in vivid detail—Romney outsourced his IT, with results that will be only too familiar to those who’ve witnessed and had to struggle with such botched efforts in other areas of business and administration (such as the UK government’s legendary management screwups with various IT contractors over the years).
Where I think Pollak misses the mark is in attributing President Obama’s reelection mainly to the Democrats’ superior GOTV efforts and this supreme Romneyan clusterfuck (for once, it’s even worth reading the comments at Pollak’s article for some of the on-the-ground reports of Orca’s failure). I think relying on the rabid bubble of the RW blogosphere and the Drudge—Fox News axis for its social media outreach and talking points is just one other significant factor, along with a terrible candidate and a fragmented campaign that was addressing an America which apparently no longer exists. But at least it means they can postpone coming to terms with the magnitude and reality of the failure, and the Borg’s own central role in it.
And spare a thought today for Karl Rove, who’s going to be participating in a conference call with Romney’s superPAC backers, presumably to explain how it was all somebody else’s fault that all those millions were wasted on ineffective ad buys that didn’t even hit the spot in most of the downticket races he targeted, and why the Romney camp fell for Rasmussen and Gallup’s crooked polling to the extent that they were among the few people in the world gobsmacked by Tuesday evening’s Obama landslide.
In among all this, President Obama’s feeling that maybe there’s a need for a new administration post of Secretary of Business to draw together fragmented efforts has been conflated by some mischief-makers (or loons, it’s hard to tell nowadays) with his statement during his acceptance speech that he wanted to meet with unemployed-again Romney for discussions, producing the cunning plan that Obama should reach across the aisle and offer Romney the post.
Leaving aside the transparent absurdity and the fact that the conduct of Romney’s election campaign shows him to be a truly awful manager in areas outside his expertise, there’s another reason why this is never going to happen. The post would be subject to confirmation by the Senate. And, like any other confirmation, the hearings would doubtless inquire into personal issues. Such as Mitt Romney’s financial affairs ...
The digital director for the Romney campaign responded to criticism in the blogosphere of the campaign’s Election-Day “Orca” vote monitoring platform, saying the program had issues but for the most part performed its mission.
Zac Moffatt said that data about 14.2 million voters was recorded through Orca, including 5,397 instances of polling-place irregularities, and that data came back from 91 percent of counties being monitored.
Volunteers have started complaining online about lack of instructions, non-functional usernames and an overall system crash.
“I understand the frustrations over interruptions with so many people engaged,” Moffatt said. “But I have real numbers.”
Moffatt did not oversee Orca, which came out of the political arm of the campaign and was billed as a sophisticated way for 34,000 volunteers with smartphones to microtarget voters and drive turnout. But he said complaints about the execution of the project on some conservative blogs don’t tell the whole story about the program itself or the Romney campaign in general.
“I’m very surprised, as digital guy, about the pushback people are getting” over Orca, Moffatt said. “This didn’t materially change the course of the election.”
I’m prepared to believe that last point, but widespread reports of issues so basic as the wrong PIN numbers being repeatedly dished out and apparently nothing being done to address it have got to be part of that “whole story” behind the “real numbers” that may end up being as real as Romney’s poll superiority.
Perhaps if the Romney campaign’s digital whizkids had spent less time sucking up to the Borg and more time gaming out what could possibly go wrong ...
Via Tony J in the Balloon Juice comments comes a fun article from RedState which cites anonymous “sources” in the Romney campaign who have a pretty low opinion of our Mr. Moffatt, among others:
So what caused the breakdown and why didn’t it get fixed in time? Well according to sources who worked closely with the program, the blame is at the feet of consultants.
Specifically Targeted Victory, FLS Connect, and The Stevens and Schriefer Group. While the Romney campaign did work with other consultants, they were apparently not part of the problem.
They say that the truth is the consultants essentially used the Romney campaign as a money making scheme, forcing employees to spin false data as truth in order to paint a rosy picture of a successful campaign as a form of job security.
Zac Moffatt, Digital Director for the Romney campaign, was specifically named as having “built a nest egg for himself and co-founder of Targeted Victory, Mike Beach,” and that they “didn’t get social” media and ignored objections from other consultants and staffers in the campaign.
Zac just went off the rails a lot and made the Romney campaign a marketing vehicle for himself.”
Yup. Forgive me a “told ya so,” but that sounds like the Zac Moffatt we described back in June. The RedState article continues:
But the failures in what was described as a “tightly wound consultant culture” didn’t stop there.
Stu Stevens of the Stevens and Schriefer Group was said to not be chasing poll numbers with the media buy strategy and appeared instead to be doing little more than “throwing darts at a dartboard.” At best using false numbers provided by ORCA; at worst milking the cash cow of the Romney campaign.
Most of the more public players, like Andrea Saul and Gail Gitcho, were doing their jobs as adequately as possible given that the apparently the poll numbers, ground operations & virtually all statistics and data involved with GOTV efforts were inaccurate. However, players like Richard Beeson, Romney’s Political Director, are said to have spent the first half of the year “traveling state to state settling scores” instead of doing crucial campaign preparation.
According to all the sources I spoke to, the breakdown of the campaign can be traced to the primaries. One source saying “they looked at the guy who could raise the most money in history as a ride” adding that “money no longer matters. That’s the problem,” also referring to the campaign overall as “the biggest political flim flam of all time.”