In 2013, I wrote “What Went Wrong: The Inside Story of the GOP Debacle of 2012 … And How It Can Be Avoided Next Time.”
This book was the result of my experience riding along as traveling press aboard Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign airplane for the month prior to the 2012 election. The research for the book involved an extensive investigation into the computer analytics the Obama campaign used to profile voters and get out the vote, as well as the innovative success the Obama campaign used to raise millions of dollars on the Internet.
The Obama approach contrasted sharply with the Romney campaign’s comparatively unsophisticated data mining operations that culminated on election day in a crash of the computer system Romney had touted would push GOTV (Get Out The Vote) information to an army of field operatives across the country. A senior Romney advisor predicted to me on election day that Romney would be victorious because “a positive campaign message trumps a good ground game every time.”
The advisors to Romney had calculated incorrectly that his theme of “Real Change” and the campaign’s emphasis upon the economy and job creation would defeat Obama’s “Hope and Change” theme using advanced data mining capabilities. Obama’s win in 2012 was a crushing defeat for the GOP. “What Went Wrong” cautioned future GOP presidential campaigns to combine computer-driven capabilities to plan voter turnout and fund-raising strategies along with the standard positive message — a feat that was accomplished four years later, as demonstrated by Donald Trump’s surprise victory over Hillary Clinton in 2016.