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Noonan Eats Crow- Gracefully

November 9, 2012 1 comment

It is only fair to recognize that after Peggy Noonan’s November 5th forecast of a Romney victory because she could feel it through yard signs and well-attended closing rallies for the Republican candidate- the reality of what occurred on election day has hit home.

With grace and a certain amount of humor, this is the former Reagan speechwriter in today’s Wall Street Journal:

President Obama did not lose, he won. It was not all that close. There was enthusiasm on his side. Mitt Romney’s assumed base did not fully emerge, or rather emerged as smaller than it used to be. He appears to have received fewer votes than John McCain. The last rallies of his campaign neither signaled nor reflected a Republican resurgence. Mr Romney’s air of peaceful dynamism was the product of a false optimism that, in the closing days, buoyed some conservatives and swept some Republicans. While GOP voters were proud to assert their support with lawn signs, Democratic professionals were quietly organizing, data mining and turning out the vote. Their effort was a bit of a masterpiece; it will likely change national politics forever. Mr. Obama was perhaps not joyless but dogged, determined, and tired.
Apart from those points, everything in my blog post of Nov. 5 stands.

Which is to say, there’s not much left of it to stand.

My point in comparing the prognosticating approaches of Noonan and the New York Times’ Nate Silver earlier this week, also stands. And my point was an intentionally narrow one. Data analysis and empirical research trump emotion and “feelings” every time.

And by the way, what works in the world of political forecasting, also works in the rough and tumble world of political campaigning- and specifically, the art of the political ground game. Noonan is absolutely correct when she says Republicans may have been putting signs on their lawns, but Democrats were organizing, data mining and turning out the vote.

The precision and demographic targeting of the Obama campaign amounted to the most impressive GOTV (get out the vote) effort in modern political history. Because they identified their voters and then motivated them to get to the polls through personal and local volunteer interaction, they, in essence, created their own electorate.

Here’s a Time magazine piece on the Chicago bunker where the effort was centered, based always on pain-staking research and a conscious dismissal of all previous ground game assumptions.

By comparison, here are details of the Romney GOTV effort, which was supposed to have been coordinated through new technology that was never actually tested and which literally crashed and burned on election day as Romney volunteers realized their system for identifying which voters had voted and which had not, was simply not working.

The larger point here, is that information is power. Those who ignore it or fail to mine it, sift it, analyze it and understand it, do so at their own peril, whether they are trying to win elections or predict their outcome.