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November 11, 2012

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Outsourcing critical GOTV infrastructure? Turns out "they didn't build that".

From a IT project mgmt perspective, the difference between the Dem approach (in house, open source, hosted on AWS) and the GOP approach of putting it all in the hands of an external consulting firm had a predictable result. The Romney MBA style approach failed, as it usually does. I am pretty sure whichever firm that built it will still be paid in full.

If I understand this correctly, the basis behind Orca is volunteers listening for when people roll up to the polling station and then eavesdrop and when they hear their name, they were to record it, so that information could then tell the center in Boston that person X had voted, so they didn't need to hit them with a robocall or a visit. Is anyone kinda weirded out by the idea of someone trying to overhear someone's name when they are talking to a voting official? This CNET article has a screen shot, so it looks to me like they are supposed to scope things out like that.

It reminds me of the Florida Republican GOTV effort which was outsourced to a Repubican buisness that had alredy gotten into legal trouble once and then got busted again.

There was a long article I read recedntly and sadly I can't remembver the title, author or anything helpful. I just remember the main point: the Republican party has been ripped off for millions over and over and over by insiders. Some of the people who are considered mainstays of teh Repubican party have been doing the ripping off for years. Viguerie is one. He has run multiple money raisers for himslef which were supposeldy money raisers for conservaive causes by using boogeymen stories to scare donations out of the creduous.( The Repubican party in microcosim, in effect).

It seems in keeping with the behavior both of Repubican pundits and politicians and many of the base, frankly, that the Repubilican party would be prone both to incompetence and corruption. The sense of entitlement, the refusal to learn from or process facts, the longstanding --heck, thirty years now!--tactic of using fear and hate to bamboozle people inot voting for them rather than honestly discssing what they do when they have power, the faith-based support that makes their base so easy to bilk...the whole party is just a con game.

So it isn't suprising to me at all that they con each other.

I'm not sure the term "eavesdrop" applies to activities which are actually within the legal purview of poll watchers. It normally implies something surreptitious and perhaps illegal, but poll watchers are actually there for the PURPOSE of witnessing the proceedings.

At least in my polling place, the poll worker shouts your name and address to another poll worker who is marking another record. You are not having a private conversation with her at all.

" just remember the main point: the Republican party has been ripped off for millions over and over and over by insiders."

I'd say that's perfectly accurate: The Republican party has, for at least so long as I've been paying attention, been in the grips of a clique of insiders who run it for their own benefit. Perhaps you noticed the fuss at this year's national convention, where legitimately selected delegates for Paul, or who were Tea party affiliated, were prevented from entering the convention site, and replaced with party hacks? I've seen that happen before on a state level, such as Michigan in '94.

These are the people the Tea party movement formed to get rid of, and who are attempting to subvert the Tea party into just another tool loyal to themselves.

The only thing I'd caution you about is that, if the Republican base actually does manage to pry their party loose from this clique, and make it function as a representative political institution, you're almost certainly going to like the result less than you do the status quo. One of the things this clique does is keep the party from nominating candidates who actually agree with the base on a wide range of issues.

They stop doing that, and you'll face a Republican party that's a lot more unified than you're used to, where the base aren't so demoralized, and the elected office holders really ARE trying to implement the platform.

Well, Brett, that leads to the whole problem of what policies, exactly, do Republican voters really want. Some of them do want the crazy stuff implemented: bans on birth control, bans on abortion access for rape victims, tax cuts for rich people, vocherize Medicare, etc.

But most don't. There good solid polling datat on this. Tax cuts for the rich, for example, are wildly unpopular even with the Republican party base.

Very very few people are silly enough to take Ron Paul's ideas seriously., Even Ron Paul doesn't! If he did his heavily subsidized district that lives on earmarks and farm subsidies wouldn't keep re-electing him.

Both parties have "political consultant" parasites. IMHO, Obama's biggest advantage in the 2008 primaries was that all the "big name" consultants were working for Clinton, and siphoning off multi-million-dollar "fees" for advice that was every bit as bad as what Romney got.

In Washington State we vote by mail. It's very quiet...unless you were out partying the night before. The sound of a furry tongue licking a stamp is excruciating.

It would seem the whole ORCA approach of trying to find out which precincts to send in the 7th cavalry too late in the game was outmatched by the Obama campaign's sophisticated effort to identify and motivate individual indians hiding in the woods. http://news.cnet.com/8301-13578_3-57547183-38/why-romneys-orca-killer-app-beached-on-election-day/> See here.

It seems to me ORCA wasn't a terrible idea, but ran up against the fact that the people who didn't show up for Romney actually had reasons for not showing up. It wasn't like it had just slipped their minds that it was election day...

The first step in getting out your voters, is persuading them to BE your voters. That's where Romney really fell down.

2012:
Obama 61,857, 999
Romney 58,591,534

2008:
Obama 69,499, 428
McCain 59,950,323

I'd say Obama actually did a crappy job of getting out the vote, this time around. (Or maybe it was phenomenal, taking into account the job he'd done as President...) He lost seven million votes, with an increased population!

It's just that Romney did a worse job.

I should note that I'm not entirely sure that the vote totals above count every vote cast this year. But it sure does look like Obama lost ground from 2008.

Let's look at the prior numbers:

2004
Bush 62,040,610
Kerry 59,028,439

2000
Bush 50,460,110
Gore 51,003,926

1996
Clinton 47,400,125
Dole 39,198,755

1992
Clinton 44,909,806
Bush 39,104,550

1984
Reagan 54,455,472
Mondale 37,577,352

1980
Reagan 43,903,230
Carter 35,480,115

1972
Nixon 47,168,710
McGovern 29,173,222

1968
Nixon 31,783,783
Humphrey 31,271,839

It really is pretty unusual that Obama won reelection with a lot fewer votes than the first time. This wasn't a successful President being rewarded with another term, IMO. It was just a lousy President gifted with a lousier opponent.

From a IT project mgmt perspective, the difference between the Dem approach (in house, open source, hosted on AWS) and the GOP approach of putting it all in the hands of an external consulting firm had a predictable result.

I'm not sure that's true. Whether you should buy talent (in house dev) or lease it (outsource) or do both is a tricky question, but either way, you have to be smart enough to supervise the work. These guys were not, and it ended in disaster. But if they had all in house staff, their inability to supervise the work would have been just as disastrous.

Likewise with open source. I only work with open source stacks, but they could have definitely made this work with on a Microsoft platform and probably gotten some of the AWS benefits from hosting on MS Azure. This isn't rocket science; they just needed a db-backed website that was very scalable. But it sounds like they were hosting this out of campaign HQ where Comcast decided to kill their internet access because the traffic surged looked like a DDOS attack, so clearly these people were too stupid to breathe.

The Romney MBA style approach failed, as it usually do

Indeed.

Lily, are you thinking of the Long Con by Rick Perlstein?

Brett, even taking into account the growing population Obama's 2012 numbers still look impressive compared to his predecessors' (only Bush 2004 had more and not that much more). Only in comparision with his 2008 numbers (which were really exceptional) could one say he failed this time.
I think the true measure would be the patterns in the swing states, the places were mobilisation actually play a role.

But it sounds like they were hosting this out of campaign HQ where Comcast decided to kill their internet access because the traffic surged looked like a DDOS attack, so clearly these people were too stupid to breathe.

I don't know much about all this but,

1. Data on 14.2 million voters over the course of a day doesn't seem like any kind of tsunami.

2. Why did Comcast kill their service? Did they not bother telling Comcast to expect a lot of traffic on election day?

Why did Comcast kill their service? Did they not bother telling Comcast to expect a lot of traffic on election day?

Comcast provides internet service to households and small businesses. It is not an industrial strength ISP. Large traffic surges look like attack traffic to a network operations center, unless you've told them in advance to expect said surge, so killing the traffic early on makes sense. I doubt that they told Comcast because I'd expect Comcast to tell them 'WTF? We're not set up to deal with this...'

1. Data on 14.2 million voters over the course of a day doesn't seem like any kind of tsunami.

The total work the system does isn't well described by the total number of bits it has to process at the end ;-) For a dumb enough manager, a half-full bathtub affords many opportunities for drowning.

This wasn't a successful President being rewarded with another term, IMO.

yeah, well, your opinion got outvoted by several million votes.

lj, the process I have read for Orca users was to visually check the rolls every 15 minutes (which, as poll watchers, they are entitled to do) and report in on that. Of course, some users may have decided not to read (or even print off) the 69 page manual. Perhaps because it was only available the night before.

The whole Orca story sounds like a type case for "how not to run an IT project."
- out-source to people who don't know the business. Check
- fail to keep tabs on what was being produced as the project went along. Check
- take no action when the project was running way behind schedule. Check
- fail to do adequate testing before implementation. Check
- fail to find out what resources will be needed to run the software in production, so it locks up due to high demand. Check
- fail to train the users in the new software (whether due to it not being available in time or for other reasons). Check

And finally, pay the vendor anyway. Check

I suspect that anybody here who works in IT has seen projects like this. Maybe even been cursed with participating, or in picking up the pieces afterwards. Almost every time, there are one or both of two causes:
- poor management of the purchasing company results in them buying a smoke and mirrors sales job. And accepting a horrible contract for it.
- poor management of the purchasing company results in them not having a clue how their company works. And so no idea whether they even need whatever is being sold.

Kind of a damning commentary on a campaign with "Our guy knows how to manage things" as its core message.

It seems to me ORCA wasn't a terrible idea, but ran up against the fact that the people who didn't show up for Romney actually had reasons for not showing up.

I would say it ran up against the fact that the actual execution of the platform as a whole was utter crap.

When your stuff fails as soon as somebody tries to use it in a real world context, that is known as "utter crap".

It really is pretty unusual that Obama won reelection with a lot fewer votes than the first time.

It's extraordinary that Obama won, at all, with any amount of votes. It's beyond extraordinary that he won by an indisputable electoral landslide.

The economy is still weak, unemployment hovers around 8%, and he has a mixed record of making the things he said he was going to do happen. By all rights, he should have been dead in the water.

And, he won.

You can put that down to "Romney was a crap candidate" if you like, but I can't imagine anybody else doing better.

Can you? Do you think Ron Paul would have pulled better numbers than Romney? Who do you think would have made a stronger run?

What I think American conservatives need to consider is that the majority of people in this country don't want what they're selling.

Obama's a really, really good campaigner, but over a population of 120M people factors like that kind of smooth out.

Romney lost because more people wanted Obama to be President than wanted Romney to be President, *in spite* of a crap economy, almost 8% unemployment, trillion dollar deficit, and any of the other eleventy-million messes we're up to our behinds in as a nation.

It shouldn't have happened, and it did. By every historical precedent I can think of, Obama should have been a dead man walking. Romney should have won in a walk.

He didn't. Obama kicked Romney's @ss.

That should be a wake-up call for the Republican party, and for conservatives generally. Whatever wonderful message it is you're trying to tell the rest of us, it ain't getting through.

Maybe you need to get better at explaining yourselves, or maybe your message just isn't really all that wonderful, in the end.

Better luck next time.

As always, don't listen to me.

David Frum
Jane Swift, former Republican governor of MA.
A member of the putative core Republican demographic.

If you want to be relevant, you have to get your head out of your @ss.

Not you, personally, Brett, that comment is NOT directed toward you.

It is directed toward the institutional (R) party and anyone who thinks that party has any positive contribution to make to the contemporary American polity.

The (R) party as currently configured is going to lose, and lose, and lose, and lose, and lose, because it richly deserves to do so. It's become a gaggle of haters, crazies, and reactionary lunatics.

I have no problem with people who want to deal, honestly and clearly, with the real issues that the nation faces. I don't expect to agree with all of them, and I don't expect my point of view to always prevail, *because* we don't all agree.

But the (R) party, at the moment, is a gibbering clown show. My two cents.

@Brett: You realize that, by your numbers, Obama would have nevertheless beat McCain again in the popular vote? Though it would have been less than Nate Silver's 2 percentage points rather than more.

Now look at the electoral map. The states that Obama won by more than 5 points add up to 263 electoral votes, much fewer than before. But adding literally any other state that might be in play puts us over the top. Next suppose that Florida with its large Hispanic population, not included in this tally, joins the reliably Democratic states.

Now can we abolish the electoral college?

If you want to be relevant, you have to get your head out of your @ss.

I don't mean to harp on this unduly, but if you want to know why Mitt Romney lost, click through on the Frum link and listen to what he says from 1:00 to 1:30.

The 2012 election and its outcome, in a nutshell, in thirty seconds.

Really, that's all she wrote.

At least in my polling place, the poll worker shouts your name and address to another poll worker who is marking another record. You are not having a private conversation with her at all.

There was no name-shouting in my polling place, nor was there any communication I could overhear that let anyone at all know who I was.

However: there was a sign-in book where my name is printed out on an adhesive sticker and placed next to a signature block that I then sign. It wouldn't take a great deal of visual acuity to read that, even upside-down.

I may be the last person on the planet to be unaware of what GOTV was without Googling. Honestly, I had no idea.

I think Republicans have now laid credible claim to "I belong to no organized political party", after last week. But I don't really much care. Things will continue, in American politics, along a certain direction until a point well past where it's dead obvious to all non-dead observers that it's completely broken, and then some reshuffling will occur.

Thanks for the comments, all. Having never been to a polling station in a battleground state, I guess I had a warped view of what sort of privacy one was allowed.

One explanation for the lower vote totals this year: In New York State, Obama was down a million votes from 2008, and Romney was down half a million from McCain. Weather related, possibly? Similarly in New Jersey, Obama was off by 300k, and Romney by 250k.

Not saying Sandy explains all the difference, but I'm sure the unusual difficulty many people had in casting a ballot had something to do with it.

You can put that down to "Romney was a crap candidate" if you like, but I can't imagine anybody else doing better.

Can you? Do you think Ron Paul would have pulled better numbers than Romney? Who do you think would have made a stronger run?

Jon Huntsman
Gary Johnson
Tim Pawlenty
Mitch Daniels
Chris Christie
Jeb Bush
Mike Huckabee

Basically, anybody who is a member of the "reality based community".

Huntsman was tainted by his association with Obama (cooties!) Pawlenty is boring and ran out of money early. Johnson got totally ignored. The others looked at the tea leaves (so to speak) and decided to sit this one out.

Would any of them have won? No way of telling. But I'd be surprised if any of them made the kind of howling blunders that Romney did. Not releasing tax info (or backlash from their contents, if he did release them). The "47%" remark. Having no detectable beliefs or principles. The whole "rich guy" aura.

"I may be the last person on the planet to be unaware of what GOTV was without Googling. Honestly, I had no idea."

Cheer up, first time I saw the term, I thought, "The GOP has a TV channel?"

In my county, voters' names are never shouted out but poll observers are legally entitled to review the list of people who have voted. Not just anyone can look at those records: each party is allowed to assign one observer per precinct. And of course they can't see how anyone voted, just the fact that they voted. There's nothing nefarious going on there. It's a legitimate part of the voting process.

Gary Johnson

Basically, anybody who is a member of the "reality based community".

I'm not sure that someone who tweeted, during one of the debates, "Fact: The government has never done anything cheaper than the private sector. Ever." can be confidently described as a member of the reality-based community. Nor can anyone whose stated policies, like Johnson's, would've turned the recession into a second Great Depression.

I don't think that Jeb "Chang the mighty Chinese warrior" Bush is very reality based.

"Why is this family ruling us?" - Also not very reality-based.

Also not very reality-based.

Actually, it is. Check the date of the Delong post.

Date point well taken.

But George W. Bush did not rule us. Neither did Jeb Bush, although Jeb was arguably one of the better governors the state of Florida has ever seen. Even if he occasionally says some really weird things in public.

Swearyanthony: " The Romney MBA style approach failed, as it usually does. I am pretty sure whichever firm that built it will still be paid in full."

And I'm pretty sure that that firm has, ah, 'a good business relationship' with some Romney family interests, if you know what I mean.

Brett: "The only thing I'd caution you about is that, if the Republican base actually does manage to pry their party loose from this clique, and make it function as a representative political institution, you're almost certainly going to like the result less than you do the status quo. One of the things this clique does is keep the party from nominating candidates who actually agree with the base on a wide range of issues.

They stop doing that, and you'll face a Republican party that's a lot more unified than you're used to, where the base aren't so demoralized, and the elected office holders really ARE trying to implement the platform."

We just saw that process let some real Tea Party people get through (see 'Races, Senate, USA, 2012'). The result was that we still hold the Senate, because even people in Red States soundly rejected raw Tea Party people.

I think you missed the real story here, Barry: The GOP lost seats, sure enough, and some of the GOP candidates who lost were Tea party supported.

But the Tea party candidates did better than the GOP as a whole; The GOP lost ground, but the Tea party gained it. The GOP losses were disproportionately among the NON Tea party candidates.

I think you're right, Brett. Just keep nominating those Tea Party candidates. It'll work out for you in the end.

Trust me.

In the get out the vote ground game I have the most experience with, having an app transmit voter's names to a nationally centralized registry seems very highly centralized. In every political campaign I have worked (most unsuccessful, some successful, and a few historical), local organizers canvass residences by phone and on foot; doing so, the build up a database of potential and probable supporters. A regional or national group may mine that data for media buys targeted to address concerns voters express to the canvassers. Before the election, some campaigns run programs to add identified donors, past voters, and party members to the list of supporters. On election day, each electoral district takes that list and divides it by poll and assigns poll workers to each one. The poll workers, who often include the organizers who did the canvass, then get the vote out using old fashioned shoe leather. They have the help of a local headquarters that can provide rides, babysitting, or whatever reasonable help a voter needs to get to the polls, but the tally of who voted and who did not does not go, or need to go, to any regional headquarters on election day, much less a national headquarters.

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