One of the contributing factors in Mitt Romney’s defeat was the collapse of his ORCA system. This was a computer generated program that was supposed to assist volunteers in getting the votes out. The day of the election, it was a disaster. The program crashed and the Romney campaign could not allocate volunteers to where votes where needed.
It’s been reported the system crashed at 4 p.m., but multiple sources familiar with the war room operation said it had actually been crashing throughout the day. Officials mostly got information about votes either from public news sources tracking data, like CNN.com, or by calling the counties for information, the source said. Officials insisted the day after the election that they had still believed they were close, and that they had hit their numbers where they needed to, even as Fox News and other outlets called the race.
The numbers in the interface never moved, leaving officials in Boston and out in the states “flying blind” — a phrase used by several people. The workers on the ground didn’t know what doors to knock on or what efforts to make with which voter targets who had not yet turned out — some efforts were made but they were slow and more cumbersome. And the campaign officials also generally didn’t know which precincts to send auto-calls into to try to boost turnout — especially in precincts in Ohio, where there is no party affiliation in the general election. Instead of targeted information, all they really had to work with was the generic raw vote tallies in various counties.
“The whole point of this system was we were supposed to be able to identify who in these precincts had not turned out, who were our supporters,” said one source of the system, which was built at a “substantial” cost. The idea behind it was to use pre-canned, targeted messages to push the voters who hadn’t yet cast a ballot, one of the most basic aspects of Election Day GOTV, which is knowing which supporters have already voted and who still needs to be part of a pull operation.
What the GOP needs to do is data mine and have accurate information for voters. We need to emulate Obama’s OFA model.