This chart spells bad news for South Carolina and its hopes of moving its hopelessly outdated, 1950s-style, tax breaks;cheap, supine labor; and minimal regulations economic development model into the 21st century.
The chart is one MSNBC ran last night one one of its Fox News-wannabe shows. It's drawn from an article in The New Republic analyzing the Romney campaign's analysis of the electorate and its polling operations in six key states. Peter Hamby's report at CNN makes a telling point:
"When it comes to the use of voter data and analytics, the two sides appear to be as unmatched as they have ever been on a specific electioneering tactic in the modern campaign era," Sasha Issenberg, a journalist and an expert in the science of campaigning, wrote just days before the election proved him right. "No party ever has ever had such a durable structural advantage over the other on polling, making television ads, or fundraising, for example."
The Romney campaign and the Republican National Committee entered Election Day boasting about the millions of voter contacts -- door knocks and phone calls -- they had made in all the key states.
Volunteers were making the calls using an automated VOIP-system, allowing them to dial registered voters at a rapid clip and punch in basic data about them on each phone's keypad, feeding basic information into the campaign's voter file.
But volunteer callers were met with angry hang-ups and answering machines just as much as actual voters on the other end of the line. It was a voter contact system that favored quantity over quality.
Ars Technica has a fascinating piece about how the Romney team bet a big piece of the farm on a computerized GOTV system called Orca. It was a typical Romney operation, in retrospect, full of swagger and hype (they invited PBS's News Hour- in the last months of its existence under the Romney Presidential Inevitability Plan- to show it off). But Team Mitt didn't even start building it until after the primaries, and- crucially- rolled it into service without any serious testing. It crashed repeatedly on election day and left the Romney campaign half-blind about what was going on:
... Instead, volunteers couldn't get the system to work from the field in many states—in some cases because they had been given the wrong login information. The system crashed repeatedly. At one point, the network connection to the Romney campaign's headquarters went down because Internet provider Comcast reportedly thought the traffic was caused by a denial of service attack.
As one Orca user described it to Ars, the entire episode was a "huge clusterfuck."
..."The end result," Ekdahl wrote, "was that 30,000+ of the most active and fired-up volunteers were wandering around confused and frustrated when they could have been doing anything else to help. The bitter irony of this entire endeavor was that a supposedly small government candidate gutted the local structure of [get out the vote] efforts in favor of a centralized, faceless organization in a far off place (in this case, their Boston headquarters). Wrap your head around that."
John Ekdahl, the campaign worker Ars Technica quoted, has his own, devastating account of how campaign workers fired up for Romney got screwed by a system bolted together in Boston:
Now a note about the technology itself. For starters, this was billed as an "app" when it was actually a mobile-optimized website (or "web app"). For days I saw people on Twitter saying they couldn't find the app on the Android Market or iTunes and couldn't download it. Well, that's because it didn't exist. It was a website. This created a ton of confusion. Not to mention that they didn't even "turn it on" until 6AM in the morning, so people couldn't properly familiarize themselves with how it worked on their personal phone beforehand.
Next, and this part I find mind-boggingly absurd, the web address was located at "https://www.whateveritwas.com/orca". Notice the "s" after http. This denotes it's a secure connection, something that's used for e-commerce and web-based email. So far, so good. The problem is that they didn't auto-forward the regular "http" to "https" and as a result, many people got a blank page and thought the system was down. Setting up forwarding is the simplest thing in the world and only takes seconds, but they failed to do it. This is compounded by the fact that mobile browsers default to "http" when you just start with "www" (as 95% of the world does).
By 2PM, I had completely given up. I finally got ahold of someone at around 1PM and I never heard back. From what I understand, the entire system crashed at around 4PM. I'm not sure if that's true, but it wouldn't surprise me. I decided to wait for my wife to get home from work to vote, which meant going very late (around 6:15PM). Here's the kicker, I never got a call to go out and vote. So, who the hell knows if that end of it was working either.
At bottom, the Romney campaign's problem was that for all its chief's vaunted devotion to data, they overlooked a basic principle of computer analysis: garbage in, garbage out. They spent a fortune on a hastily-assembled, untested computer system, with no backup plan, and trusted it to work because the consultants they hired to make it for them said it would work.
Transfer your gaze, bemused reader, to the Uniparty in Columbia. Its chief, Mrs Governor Nikki Haley, endorsed Romney and his vision of American plutocracy early in the campaign season. Mrs. Haley and her team are wrestling their own dead orca on the beach. Every day the news gets a little worse as the facts dribble out from her information control-freak administration about how the Department of Revenue suffered the largest hack attack in US governmental history.
Hackers stole 3.8 million state taxpayers' Social Security numbers.
They stole 3.3 million bank account numbers.
Nearly 700,000 businesses have been affected.
The state system lacked a data encryption program and a double-password system. The department studied the encryption idea in 2006 and shelved it. They thought it would cost too much at $5 million.
The cost of giving all the affected individuals and business credit protection online for a year will be, Mrs. Governor Haley says, $12 million.
An upgrade to a dual password system would have cost $25,000. The department passed on that, too.
The Greenville News reports that last year the Department of Revenue spent $42,110 on hotel rooms in-state.
Apparently, as Waldo has previously reported, keeping the financial information of her constituents safe isn't a core function of government as Mrs. Governor Haley defines it. She says the IRS and Congress need to impose standards on the state and make her employ them.
The Department of revenue fiasco isn't the first of Mrs. Governor Haley's data debacles: just the biggest. In April her Department of Health and Human Services reported an employee stole the personal data of 220,000 South Carolinians on Medicaid.
And this week The Greenville News reported the Department of Workforce and Employment is only just finding a programming error from 2008 that resulted in $9 million in unemployment compensation charges not being entered into the Department's records. With a heavy volume of claims that year, the Department started letting people file on weekend, but continued to only count claims filed Monday through Friday.
It took the Department's auditors four years to find the mistake.
The result? 12% of the state's businesses and nonprofits will get that shortfall added to their next rate calculation. The only ones the agency will go after for overpayment are nonprofits
Mrs. Governor Haley was quick to respond through her spokesman, Rob Godfrey:
“State agencies aren’t exempt from problems from time to time,” he said, “and that’s why we put strong, business-friendly leaders in place at state agencies who continue to show results for the people of our state – results like more than 29,000 jobs announced and record-breaking investment in South Carolina, more than 12,000 welfare-to-work success stories, transforming DJJ into an agency that trains young people for jobs and erasing deficits at Corrections, Social Services, and Health and Human Services.”
One business leader's reaction was more succinct:
“How could you make such an asinine mistake?” asked Frank Knapp, president and chief executive officer of the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce.
What links the Haley administration and the Romney Administration's now-impossible dream is that "business-friendly" does not necessarily mean technologically savvy. "Business-friendly" means cutting taxes, cutting services, reducing budgets, and eliminating regulations. The rest is just background noise.
When your business leaders are all middle-aged to elderly white guys, there's a lag in their connect with day-to-day business logistics even in their own businesses. Tech is stuff you have to spend too much money on kids with tattoos and tie-dyed hair to make work for you. As long as it works and the numbers work, well, the rest is just background noise. That upgrade thing, it's $25k out of this quarter's profits, you know that, kid?
In 2007 Mitt Romney sat down with the editors of The Wall Street Journal. As they reported it:
"I love data." Mitt Romney has been speaking for less than two minutes when he makes this profession.
The former Massachusetts governor is meeting with the editorial board of The Wall Street Journal to discuss his campaign for the presidency. And he starts not with the economy, "global jihad" or the country as a whole, but with himself.
While some have questioned Mr. Romney's authenticity, the immediate impression he gives is that he speaks straight from the heart. Especially where data are concerned. "I used to call it 'wallowing in the data,'" Mr. Romney continues. "Let me see the data. I want to see the client's data, the competitors' data. I want to see all the data."
Romney elaborated the mantra Mrs. Governor Haley and her flack, Godfrey, prate now in dumbed-down form:
Politicians don't like to describe themselves as ideological, but most have a core of political precepts. Mr. Romney describes his thus: "Obviously, I have -- just like in the consulting world -- I have 'concepts' that I believe. I believe the free market works and government doesn't -- that when government takes over a function which can be effectively managed in the free market, we make a huge mistake. I think government is almost by necessity inefficient, inflexible, duplicative, wasteful, expensive and burdensome." This is fairly traditional small-government, free-market conservative talk -- or would be, if it weren't framed as a "concept," like those used in consulting.
Which makes it seem at first a curious way to describe why one is running for president of the United States and leader of the free world. But it turns out to be a perfect encapsulation of the Romney campaign.
Mr. Romney spent a decade as a consultant, and later ran a private equity concern that grew out of that. For most of his adult life, then, Mr. Romney has been figuring out how to run businesses better. It is not much of a stretch to say that he views the federal government as just one more candidate for a data-driven makeover.
In fact, it may not be a stretch at all. When asked for details about how he would reduce the size of government if elected, he mentions two things: The organizational chart of the executive branch, and consultants. "There's no corporation in America that would have a CEO, no COO, just a CEO, with 30 direct reports."
Running a government organized like this is, he explains, impossible. "So I would probably have super-cabinet secretaries, or at least some structure that McKinsey would guide me to put in place." He seems to catch a note of surprise in his audience, but he presses on: "I'm not kidding, I probably would bring in McKinsey. . . . I would consult with the best and the brightest minds, whether it's McKinsey, Bain, BCG or Jack Welch."
Which brings me back to Mitt Romney's poll numbers.
When the crunch came, Campaign Mitt had incomplete numbers, and they were skewed by the biases of the data wallowers. It was already gospel that the mainstream media polls that got the results right were in the tank for the President. The gaps and inconsistencies in the data were papered over by the sense of destiny that led Romney not to bother with even thinking about a concession speech.
The Romney campaign got crap data because they couldn't get the top talent to build them a system like the Obama campaign built: one that maximized ground workers' effectiveness while at the same time locating and turning out new voters in even larger numbers than they did in 2008.
And to do that, reports The New York Times' Nate Silver, you need the right tech people:
The reason is that Democrats’ strength in the [San Francisco Bay/Silicon Valley] region is hard to separate out from the growth of its core industry — information technology – and the advantage that having access to the most talented individuals working in the field could provide to Democratic campaigns.
Companies like Google and Apple do not have their own precincts on Election Day. However, it is possible to make some inferences about just how overwhelmingly Democratic are the employees at these companies, based on fund-raising data. (The Federal Election Commission requires that donors to presidential campaigns disclose their employer when they make a campaign contribution.)
Among employees who work for Google, Mr. Obama received about $720,000 in itemized contributions this year, compared with only $25,000 for Mr. Romney. That means that Mr. Obama collected almost 97 percent of the money between the two major candidates.
Apple employees gave 91 percent of their dollars to Mr. Obama. At eBay, Mr. Obama received 89 percent of the money from employees.
Over all, among the 10 American-based information technology companies on Fortune’s list of “most admired companies,” Mr. Obama raised 83 percent of the funds between the two major party candidates.
Mr. Obama’s popularity among the staff at these companies holds even for those which are not headquartered in California. About 81 percent of contributions at Microsoft, which is headquartered in Redmond, Wash., went to Mr. Obama. So did 77 percent of those at I.B.M., which is based in Armonk, N.Y.
It does not require an algorithm to deduce that the sort of employees who may be willing to donate substantial money to a political campaign may also be those who would consider working for it.
Since Democrats had the support of 80 percent or 90 percent of the best and brightest minds in the information technology field, it shouldn’t be surprising that Mr. Obama’s information technology infrastructure was viewed as state-of-the-art exemplary, whereas everyone from Republican volunteers to Silicon Valley journalists have criticized Mr. Romney’s systems. Mr. Romney’s get-out-the-vote application, Project Orca, is widely viewed as having failed on Election Day, perhaps contributing to a disappointing Republican turnout.
There were undoubtedly many bright and talented information technology professionals who worked for Mr. Romney, and who might have fielded a better product given better management.
Even if only 10 percent or 20 percent of elite information technology professionals would consider working for a Republican like Mr. Romney, this is still a reasonably large talent pool to draw from.
But Democrats are drawing from a much larger group of potential staff and volunteers in Silicon Valley.
Perhaps a different type of Republican candidate, one whose views on social policy were more in line with the tolerant and multicultural values of the Bay Area, and the youthful cultures of the leading companies here, could gather more support among information technology professionals.
And, as Waldo explained at length in 2008, South Carolina's just a non-starter when it comes to attracting that kind of talent here. In one of the least unionized states in the nation we wave the bloody shirt against unionization. Republicans babble that Hispanics are natural conservatives but they don't belong in America (the other day they passed an "immigration reform" bill that created 55,000 jobs for smart immigrants by eliminating 55,000 places that used to to to Africans and eastern Europeans); South Carolina's congressional delegation unites behind repealing Obamacare and placing it with--nothing. The Republicans' Great Brown Hope (and Jim DeMint protege'), Marco Rubio, comes up with bosh like this:
It was the standard political interview, about ambition and the right size for government. Then came the curveball question to Senator Marco Rubio of Florida from Michael Hainey of GQ magazine: “How old do you think the earth is?”
Senator Rubio, a possible contender in the 2016 Republican presidential race, gave the following answer: “I’m not a scientist, man. I can tell you what recorded history says, I can tell you what the Bible says, but I think that’s a dispute amongst theologians.”
He went on: “At the end of the day, I think there are multiple theories out there on how the universe was created, and I think this is a country where people should have the opportunity to teach them all. I think parents should be able to teach their kids what their faith says, what science says.
“Whether the earth was created in seven days, or seven actual eras, I’m not sure we’ll ever be able to answer that. It’s one of the great mysteries.”
It may have been a mystery back in the 17th century, when Archbishop James Ussher calculated from the age of the patriarchs and other sources that Earth was created on Oct. 22, 4004 B.C. Today’s best estimate for the age of Earth, based on the radiometric dating of meteorites, is 4.54 billion years. The real mystery is how a highly intelligent politician got himself into the position of suggesting that the two estimates are of equal value, or that theologians are still the best interpreters of the physical world.
And it's not just the attitudes of people in tech companies. The election results show, in many areas- like antipathy to basic scientific principles on the part of a member of the House Science Committee- the general population is shifting its views, and not in a Republican direction.