66,000 computer simulations a night in an impressive operation

Consultants for Obama and Romney spoke. Politico:

Obama’s campaign manager, Jim Messina, said Friday that the president’s reelection was won “on the micro stuff.” “Politics too much is about analogies and not about whether or not things work,” Messina told BuzzFeed. “You have to test every single thing, to challenge every assumption, and to make sure that everything we do is provable.” “That’s why I love numbers,” he said. “Because you know good or bad whether what you’re doing is working.”…

“We had to win this on the micro stuff,” Messina said…Obama for America made what Messina called an “unparalleled” $100 million investment in technology. The reelect, said Messina, would be different than 2008 — a time when the iPhone was in its first iteration, when Facebook was one-tenth of its current size, and when the Obama campaign sent just one tweet on all of Election Day (“We thought it was a stupid technology that would never go anywhere,” said Messina).

Under Messina — the metrics-obsessed brain behind the operation — the campaign once defined by ideals and hope and change, became all about the data. “We were going to demand data on everything, we were going to measure everything,” he said during the panel. “We were going to put an analytics team inside of us to study us the entire time to make sure we were being smart about things.”

Every night, Obama’s analytics team would run the campaign 66,000 times on a computer simulation. “And every morning,” said Messina, “we would come in and spend our money based on those simulations.” Their models ultimately predicted Florida results within 0.2%, and Ohio within 0.4%…”We spent a whole bunch of time figuring out that American polling is broken,” said Messina. “We never did a national poll. We only did local and state polls.”…

Jones, for his part, offered a glimpse at what went wrong with “Orca,” the failed Election Day turnout tracking system…(Messina said the Obama campaign tried the same thing in 2008: “Ours crashed too.” They named the project Houdini, but this year called it Gordon. “I said, ‘Why is this thing called Gordon?’ They said, ‘Don’t you know Gordon is the name of the person who killed Houdini?'”)

So narratives and ads that looked like utter nonsense to us because we weren’t the target market were stress-tested to see if they delivered a good ROI. That enabled a campaign which lost 9-10 million supporters to win if they could encourage just enough of the opponent’s potential supporters not to vote at all. 59% negative ads is a record, and they worked. Very impressive job.

2 Responses to “66,000 computer simulations a night in an impressive operation”

  1. Neil Says:

    A massive, data-driven campaign, firmly rooted in reality and committed to no deceiving themselves.

    I wonder if they feel the same way about fiscal policy?

  2. Kevin Says:

    Has a touch of the data driven Vietnam war about it, we won the election but destroyed the country..

Leave a Reply