Challenger Mitt Rommey reportedly only wrote a victory speech for Election Day, so revisions would have taken some time. But did the obsession with polls and tracking also delay his concession?
In an election season dominated by names like Gallup, Rasmussen and Nate Silver, the Romney number crunchers had their own methods. A campaign release described Project ORCA as a "massive undertaking" involving nearly 35,000 volunteers and designed to "conduct the world's largest exit poll" and win the White House.
The project operates via a Web-based app volunteers use to relay the most up-to-date poll information to a "national dashboard" at the Boston headquarters. ... Another key component to Project ORCA is state-of-the-art dashboard. For the past several months, a "brain" has been built into this dashboard and it will take in, analyze and recommend actions on the millions of pieces of incoming data. In the fast-paced environment of an Election Day command center, having this programmed "brain" will alert decision-makers to key findings and suggest reallocation of resources.
The human brains behind that brain came as a result of what Slate reported as a "summertime personnel spree" that included engineers who used to work at Apple, Google Analytics, Omniture and even Overstock.com, as well as "commercially available services."
The success, though, would have to depend on volunteer troops united by a Web-based smartphone app. Romney himself called these forces, armed with the technology, an "unprecedented advantage on Election Day."
This faith in algorithms led Romney for President communications director Gail Gitcho to tell PBS, "At 5 o'clock, when the exit polls come out, we won't pay attention to that ... We will have had much more scientific information just based on the political operation we have set up."
Political campaigns these days live or die by the analytics, and PBS pointed out the marine metaphors carried over to the Obama camp, which nicknamed its process Dreamcatcher and Narwhal, and then shifted to a vote-tracking system named—of all things—Gordon. Yet an Obama spokesperson also cast doubt on the opposing party's strategy, telling the Huffington Post, "In a national campaign, what additional things are the headquarters really going to do to move resources ... ? Will an additional auto-call last minute really make a difference in a market like Northeast Ohio, which has been saturated for three months full of auto-calls?"
Had Project ORCA succeeded, it would have been lauded as the ultimate voter-turnout tool. But the expected long-drawn-out fight had been called well before midnight East Coast time by several networks, including Fox News. It would take an additional 90 minutes or so before the challenger conceded at 12:55 a.m., but the shock still lingered not only over the loss, but also over Orca's failings.
Some Romney aides were surprised, too, especially since they had put an enormous amount of effort into tracking the hour-by-hour whims of the electorate. In recent weeks the campaign came up with a super-secret, super-duper vote-monitoring system that was dubbed Project Orca. ... Early in the evening, one aide said that, as of 4 p.m., Orca still projected a Romney victory of somewhere between 290 and 300 electoral votes. Obviously that didn't happen. Later, another aide said Orca had pretty much crashed in the heat of the action. 'Somebody said Orca is lying on the beach with a harpoon in it,' said the aide. (Nov. 7, Washington Examiner)
The analyses of why Romney lost are already in full gear. Somewhere in that postmortem will be a prolonged debugging session.