I came across a great post on Ace of Spades.
Decided to comment to it and so am capturing my comment for my own blog.
Scary chart. Sickening. But in the age of Idols and Stars not surprising. There is lots of mud slinging going on about Romney and campaign team and messaging and all that which is a bit silly though not unexpected. But we need to give credit to the other team. They knew that they would lose voters (and did as evidenced by 10M fewer votes than 08). But they figured out how to cobble together (and scare) segments that worked for them. Their targeting will also explain lots of the skewed data we are seeing. They will have high numbers on “cares about people like me” or even higher share than past elections of Latino votes because most of their voters were selected. Not organically won but cherry picked and messaged.
So they drew in their specific voters - for example:
* African - American - this was an easy connect with Obama as the candidate and they’ve got various sports/entertainment celebs to help them drive this segment
* Latinos - scare them with GOP primaries messaging and then specific cases that generate real anger for them (ex: AZ), pander to them with a band-aid mini Dream executive order, use channels like Pimp-with-the-Limp
* Single women - scare them with abortion (play up cases like Akin, Mourdock), birth-control issue via Obamacare, use surrogates like Fluke, Longoria (which surprises us but there is method to their madness), use channels like View, People, etc.
* Youth - campaign focus around colleges and specifically targeting first time voters - high school graduates over last 4 years who have likely been living a sheltered life in college and are less impacted by the real economy, use Dunham FirstTime (again surprises us, but scary clever), pander with loan payment incentives.
(And ofcourse Clinton - their main weapon who first did the job of telling the base that it is ok to not be embarrassed by the horrible record because no one could have done it better and this is when their campaign really took off, and then later he was a great scarer-in-chief for key segments - blue collar, seniors.)
This is why their messaging seemed so “small” to us. No platform. No plan. They did not need one. They were busy connecting with voters showing them they cared about them. They got into trouble when the first debate blew up because suddenly it created doubt about the candidate as a whole but they pieced that back together with grandstanding at the second and third debates. A jobs plan was a glossy book. Made no sense but it fits in with the segments they targeted and their method of messaging (basically a glossy is an excuse/crutch for the voter when they are challenged by rational people). Then they got Obama to strut around in a Bomber jacket and destroy the lack of bi-partisanship charge with Christie photo-ops. Every time they seemed to have a hole to fill they quickly plugged it with something superficial and it worked.
Now on our side we tried to present a vision. A platform. Solve serious problems. More traditional messaging. Broader. Attempt to create a movement which it kind of did as we saw with the crowds. It seems like we could have still won if we had truly turned out with max force. Basically Bush had about 62M votes in 04, McCain had about 59M and sounds like the final tally for Romney will be close to McCain (or even less!). So we could have driven out a stronger vote even though the margin for error on our side is very limited. We do have a need to broaden the base and hit some demographic segments better and this is being discussed by many. But lets also note that this suppressed turnout is not a coincidence. Here too their side played a hand (“Kill Romney”):
* Mormon - there was no large scale campaign but there was plenty of subtle messaging, the week before the election another secret video was released which did not make the main news but had gathered 1.2M views in the 5 days before election (see WaPo for article on this)
* Bain, Tax returns, 47% video - used to influence blue collar voting block
* Detroit bankrupt - economic, blue collar scare tactics and ideally linked to their geographic needs for electoral votes, aggressive Jeep Ad tear-down to re-confirm their “can not trust” messaging
* Mediscare - used to push down Senior vote
(And ofcourse our own corrosive anyone-but-Mitt primary - plus Ron Paul supporters - that damaged the Romney image and showed that besides having to reach out to new demographics we have to also learn to come together within our own tent.)
The bottom line is that the other team played a good game though seemingly a bit dirty. It seems at odds with how Presidents should be chosen - leadership, vision, policy platform. But this is the world we live in and they figured out how to exploit it. With the help of their allies - unions, MSM and ofcourse luck (politically that is - Sandy). And technology. With broad based communication of the old days there was a much greater need for mass communication - big vision, plans and such blasted over airwaves. But we are living in a micro-targeted world - every segment can be discovered and reached via unique channels. A game we will need to learn better.
But lets not beat our side up too much. We need to address the demographics. We need to use new world tactics and technology better. We can get cynical and attempt the same as them. Scare their segments. Cherry pick a candidate who fits our “base” profile and layer small targeted messaging on them. But then we would we be them. We instead looked at the times, identified the major problems, picked the best likely problem solvers for those problems (both Romney and Ryan are). I am much happier being a problem-solution type Republican even though a member of the losing side. For now we have demographic advantages in sufficient number of House seats to make that our firewall. And we don’t need to stand down there.
[Update 1: As it turns out I wrote this post kind of naively. Learnt a lot more about how sophisticated Team O’s use of data is in this article (and more). Lots for us to learn and this has to happen full time not during an election event. Part of infrastructure. Which sounds like a sore point for GOP given all that I am reading about ORCA GOTV issues. Technology can be deceptively seductive and deadly. Biggest surprise is that the ORCA system was not rolled out a month prior, to play with during early voting. Maybe the idea was to use stealth (as startups do) to get an advantage on Team O - from what I’ve seen stealth typically is lot less valuable than pure execution. And Team O seemed to be operating on another plain anyway. It sounds like maybe their campaign team should run their administration too!]
[Update 2: More light shed by an excellent set of heat maps of post-election state-by-state trend analysis by Ace shows that our side may have played a bigger role in the loss - i.e. by not turning out - possibly aided by Team O suppression tactics as described above. My comment to the Ace article is #135.]
[Update 3: This analysis based on up to date vote counts is truly worrying. It suggests that our side indeed turned out beyond Bush 04 in many swing states. Just that Team O was able to ratchet up key demographic turnout (more Latino, African American votes than even 2008 - the very segments with the highest unemployment rates which you would think would motivate them to vote against O - defies logic!) and even though Obama’s overall turnout in the swing state was down, the fact that he got a very high percentage of voters from these demographics allowed him to secure slender leads and win. Scary especially if these voters are as locked into being D voters as they seem. Clearly lots of work to do.]