One of the key selling points for Mitt Romney as president was his competence. This was a guy who knew how to run things. As a successful business leader, he had demonstrated the ability to transform an organization to make it operate faster, more efficiently and more effectively, and if given the chance he could do the same in government. That argument was extended to the overall Republican “brand’ as well, with the party selling itself as the party of business, run by people in business suits whose skills and work ethic were honed by free-market competition.
And of course, the primary way in which such claims are tested in the political arena is through the operation of a campaign. So it’s been interesting to see a string of post-election stories along the lines of this piece from The Washington Post:
Senior Republican campaign operatives who gathered over beer last week in Alexandria for a post-election briefing were taken aback by what they were told. A nonpartisan research firm presented data showing that President Obama had far outperformed Mitt Romney in managing the largest single expenditure of the campaign: television advertising.
Romney’s spending decisions on advertising look like “campaign malpractice,” said one person who had reviewed the newly circulated data.
Obama and his allies spent less on advertising than Romney and his allies but got far more — in the number of ads broadcast, in visibility in key markets and in targeting critical demographic groups, such as the working class and younger voters in swing states. As the presidential race entered its final, furious phase, for example, millions of college football fans tuning in to televised games saw repeated ads for Obama but relatively few from the Romney campaign.
All told, from June through Election Day, the Obama campaign and its allies aired about 50,000 more ads than Romney and his allies, according to the research firm’s data.
In other words, judged in terms of cost-effectiveness and efficiency — getting the most bang of out an advertising dollar — the Obama camp clearly outperformed the Romney camp. Other stories have documented the Obama campaign’s superior ability to identify its voters and get them to polls.
The Obama-ites also outperformed the Romney camp in its use of technology, as Ars Technica, a site specializing in the IT world, explains in a piece headlined “How Team Obama’s tech efficiency left Romney IT in dust.”
And as Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight has noted, that advantage shouldn’t be surprising. The Obama camp was able to tap the best and the brightest in the IT field because the IT field as a whole was strongly supportive of the incumbent:
“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.”
To summarize, it would appear that in the 2012 presidential campaign a team of lazy, moochin’ Democratic “47 percenters” led by a lowly “community organizer” (insert snicker here) out-smarted, out-worked, out-adapted, out-teched and out-organized the buttoned-down corporate types led by a captain of American industry. In a campaign that in many ways turned into a contest between Old America and New America, New America proved the more fit competitor and dashed some stereotypes along the way.
– Jay Bookman