The Last Word | November 21, 2012
>>> from the final days of the obama campaign , the day of the election and josh thayer, the lead engineer on narwol that underlined the campaign's digital application was going down. service had gone out and they had lost databases in the east coast servers and the memory caches, too. everything was breaking at exactly the wrong time and they had to fix it right that second or everything was lost. they did get it done but it wasn't happening on the day of the election. i sort of lied about that. that was on october 21st , and this was a war game . over the next few weeks the obama campaign 's top secret data group did this over and over and over again, three simulations in which they destroyed everything they had and then they rebuilt it all on the fly. by the end they knew what they would do if the amazon web service went down cold. they could survive that with no down time. they knew what to do, sandy wiped out the entire east coast infrastructure and head a backup that could recon construct it with the touch of a button. this is the seriousness in which they took the data operation and on election day as the romney campaign's orca system, because the orca is the only thing that hunts the narwol, as it went belly up on the beach, the obama came taken system worked. the day after the election the "new york times" reported, quote, the power of this operation stunned mr. romney's aids on election nature as they saw voters they never knew kpaised. it is one thing to say are you going to do it. it is another thing to get out there and do it, said brian jones , a senior adviser. at the end of the day the obama campaign 's get out the vote registered 1.8 million new voters by knocking on doors and registered another 1. 1 million through online campaigns including a groundbreaking facebook app that deserves a special word because it genuinely might reshape how campaigns run going forward. michael shearer writes in the final weeks before election day , a scary statistic emerged from the databases at the chicago headquarters. half the campaign's targeted swing state voters under age 29 had no listed phone number . they lived in the cellular shadows effectively immune to traditional get out the vote efforts. this facebook app was the obama campaign 's answer to that very, very new problem, the more than 1 million obama backer who is signed up for the app gave the campaign permission to look at their facebook friend lists and in an instant they had a way to see the hidden young voters. the campaign manager explained how it worked with an interview with politico on tuesday.
>> we said here are five friends of yours we think are undecided in this race. click here to send them a piece of viral content or a fact sheet and click here to ask them to support the president. and sounds like a really easy concept. it is not. it is really hard to do and took us a year of some amazing work of our talented technology team to figure out how to do it but we were able to contact over 5 million people directly through their facebook world and people they knew, so they were going to look at their friend and look at it because they know that person.
>> in the end more than 600,000 supporters made more than 5 million contacts through the system. 5 million. now that the election is over, the question is what will happen with jim messina . he explains what he thinks will happen next.
>> people just spent five years winning two presidential elections together. they're now not going to walk away and not help them become the change they want to see.
>> so is it possible that an obama organization and obama for america will remain in chicago as an entity?
>> i think anything is possible.
>> anything is possible. joining me, karen finney, and michael shearer, white house correspondent for "time" magazine. i very much like the term cellular shadow. i want to ask you, great reporting on the obama campaign 's digital game, but whenever i see this after an election i wonder how much of it is kind of whiz bang tech hype. democrats won a senate race in north dakota they shouldn't have won and it was not the obama campaign 's ground game. how big an effect too do you think it had in the end.
>> $600 million was raised on line and 504 came through digital operations. that is like twice what george w. bush was spending in the general election just a few years ago. so there is no doubt it had a huge impact. you can't disconnect what they did in get out the vote from the data operation and what they did in tv advertising from the data operation, it was all wrapped into one thing. these people will tell you tech does not win elections. you need a candidate. you need a message. it makes campaigning that much more efficient. there was a lot of talk they were going to reshape politics and continue on into governing mode and began to dissipate. what do you think is possible this time around? what do you think they learned and what can they do?
>> there were a lot of questions in the intermedial aftermath and a lot of democrats were very worried they would use the database against them and they didn't actually. i think because there was so much anxiety this time, i hope they do, it is a very powerful data and michael makes an important point and something we saw and learned from dean's campaign in 2007 and 2008 and the beauty of technology what they figured out is how to do the most simple effective thing and that is person to person contact. that is still the one thing that people believe above everything else is a friend or person that they know saying you should check this guy out. you should vote for this guy. it is so powerful, hopefully they will use it as a tool to push through the rest of the agenda and not be so shy about it this time.
>> one of the things people say is that the obama campaign had and democrats in general have a built-in advantage because a lot of the new ideas and how to work with big data and how to figure out what actually works when you're campaigning is coming out of social science and for a variety of reasons they have a better relationship with ak dem athan the republicans do. do you think that is right and will persist?
>> i think it is right to an extent. the advantage obama had is more he was the incumbent and had two years to do this where as mitt romney who actually broke some ground in his governor's race, you know, a decade ago, doing data searching and things like that.
>> in fairness, this is kind of a beefed up version of what they did in 2008 . they understood that the way to win was to expand the electorate and the only way to expand the electorate, you have to register new voters and find the voters and turn them out and they used technology to do that more effective will i and efficiently and this is that concept on steroids.
>> the secret is out of the bag. you can buy this stuff next time around. the question is whether you have a candidate who can tailor his campaign or her campaign to this type of campaigning which is really mitt romney didn't do it and john mccain couldn't do it and barack obama is very good.
>> remember all of this whining, we copied. everybody originally copied carl rove , the 72-hour strategy. if you're a engine drinker we know how you will vote and what magazines you read. the republicans did have the technology. we copied them. we did a lot better and as you say we had better relationships to make it go the farther distance. there is no reason they could not do this. they chose not to.
>> does this lead to a new class of political consultants coming up? i wonder if the next set won't be karl rove but some compile from google who truly knows how to run the source code.
>> absolutely. i am sure there are many people out there right now pitching congressional campaigns who are saying we got to get us one of those, you know, google guys .
>> when i was in chicago talking to the senior aids about this stuff, they said that jim and the tv people at the obama campaign hated this stuff because they don't get to make their own decisions anymore or the money off of it.
>> that's a different issue. they can negotiate their pay but the decisions of where the ads are bought and how much you're going to target, what cable show and everything like that, no longer made by wise men and smokey rooms. it is made by data.
>> we'll leave it there. karen finney, michael cherrer, thank you for joining us tonight.
>> what purpose to reform the filibuster if you're not going to get the part that is tying washington up in knots ahead? mitt romney was obsessed with the number 47 before the election. now the number has rather poetically come back to haunt him.