Romney’s Project ORCA: Technology fails, shoe leather wins

When my friend who worked in the Obama campaign’s analytics department told me about Project ORCA, I thought he was talking about an environmental initiative to protect marine life. In our post-election, post-elation debrief, Asher relayed to me the stress he felt on election day while monitoring exit poll results. He had observed that Obama supporters were not showing up to the polls at the rates originally projected while more Romney supporters were going to the polls than projected. Upon analyzing the data, however, he found it to be weak as Obama supporters were far less likely to report back. (Collective sigh of relief.) While the Obama campaign’s “Get out to vote” (GOTV) efforts may have shown weak, troublesome data, the mechanism of reporting, analyzing, and utilizing such data worked.

Project ORCA was the Romney campaign’s sophisticated, high-tech poll-monitoring GOTV strategy. When Asher told me about its massive failure, I did not fully understand how it failed or what it’s objective was… that is, until I read the following first hand account from a Romney campaign volunteer: “The Unmitigated Disaster Known as Project Orca.”

While I am extremely happy about the outcome of the election, I can’t help but feel sorry for the tens of thousands of fired up Romney supporters whose energy was under-utilized –dare we say suppressed?—on election day. This failure mirrors the GOP’s go-to tactic of throwing money — rather than people — at an issue.