Romney’s Vote Challenger Effort Was A Fail Whale

The massive poll challenger effort by Mitt Romney’s campaign appears to have backfired in a big way. Not only were they caught teaching illegal tactics, it turns out that the electronic backbone of their operation was fundamentally broken.

To coordinate the effort to suppress Democratic voters while encouraging Republican votes, the Romney campaign hired the firms Targeted Victory, FLS Connect, and The Stevens and Schriefer Group, to build a massive database system for their poll challengers on the ground, named Orca. What happened next will be a shock to no one who observed how Mitt Romney does business.

These firms set up a networking system to, in theory, enable anyone with a smartphone to coordinate their efforts on the national level. They should have been able to have instant-by-instant updates on voter turnout, targeted districts, and shift assets as needed, to ensure that their votes would be counted while the opposition would be left behind.

The consultants set up the system but never performed even basic quality assurance testing on it. They never engaged in a stress test, that is, pushing the system to its limits to find out where it might break down; nor did they verify if their login system was working. In short, they did as consultants are apt to do: they minimized their costs in order to maximize their profits. This is corporate capitalism at work, the very thing Mitt Romney campaigned on.

The Romney campaign gave PBS a look into the system the day before the election:

As a good corporate capitalist, Mitt Romney hired consultants who had no motivation beyond immediate profit. If the system did not work, it did not matter, as they had already collected their profits and they were already on to their next project.

They were so confident in their design that they chose to ignore exit polling entirely, as they felt that Orca would give them better real-time information. The program was called ORCA because the Obama election coordination system was named Narwhal, and the Orca is one of the few natural predators of the Narwhal.

The two systems, however, while aiming for the same goal, could not be more different. While Romney hired outside contractors with fat paychecks, Obama used volunteer effort, thousands of hours by dedicated engineers in their free time. It was focused on social networking, while Orca ignored social media. It was targeted to specific users, unlike ORCA’s one-size-fits-all. And it was in use for months before the election, while ORCA did not even give its intended users a manual until the night before the election. By the time of the election, Narwhal had been stress tested, debugged, and was ready to go into the final stretch, while ORCA was broken and many workers didn’t get their login credentials until an hour after the polls closed.

It is a sign of the issues of doctrine which drive both parties. While the Democratic Party has the emphasis of working together towards a common goal, the Republican Party has embraced “I built it,” calling a refusal to work together “self-determination.” Months ago people were calling the ORCA program flawed and broken, but the party refused to listen. Their attempt to use corporate ideology instead backfired, and the consultants laugh all the way to the bank.

Will the GOP learn from this, that a “business mindset” is not some panacea or miracle worker? What works in the field of business does not translate to government, as they serve different masters. From a business standpoint, Orca worked brilliantly; it did what it had to do for the corporations involved: it made them money. That it did not do the job it was supposed to do for the Romney campaign doesn’t matter, because turning out votes is not something a business cares about. Even if a Romney administration could have enabled more long-term profits for the firms, that doesn’t matter, as firms have surrendered long-term viability for short-term gains. When a CEO will be with a firm for only a few years, to then be given a golden parachute as they find another firm to pump and dump, well, all the better, according to corporate capitalism. Even if the firm collapses a day later, too bad.

And as these consultants float away on their golden parachutes from the implosion of the Romney campaign, corporate capitalism has worked yet again. One wonders if the Republican Party feels good right now, getting that nice feeling in their stomach as Orca worked as intended as far as the makers of it are concerned.

At this point, perhaps, they will ask themselves: is self-determination better than working together? I doubt it.