"Something is off. These numbers can't be right!"
Those must have been words bouncing around the heads of Karl Rove and Michael Barone on election night. Just day's before the election they predicted a solid Romney victory based on the "numbers". Those words or something like them were definitely being spoken by the Romney campaign as they watched the night unfold. "Shellshocked" was the word reported by CBSNews.com.
Others in the prediction game got it right. Nate Silver of the NYTimes 538 blog and Josh Putnam of our very own Davidson College had been predicting the eventual outcome correctly for months.
They were all looking at the same data, but they had come to distinctly different answers as to what it meant. How did that happen? How can very smart people on both sides come to such different conclusions? The answer is in their different assumptions about the "fundamentals" at work in this election.
Republicans believed the fundamentals at work were the traditional ones. High unemployment, a sluggish economy, and massive deficits were the primary issues. Romney-Ryan was the dream team to address them. Obama's newness had worn off. He was no longer the rockstar of 2008. Romney had the greater momentum. It showed in the his large crowds while Obama sometimes struggled to fill smaller venues. Republicans also had a better machine this time around after being caught by surprise in 2008 by the Obama Campaign's high-tech approach. They had evened the playing field enough.
Those were reasonable assumptions. Were being the operative word - as in past tense.
Democrats believed the primary fundamental at work was demographics. Specifically, the changing demographics of the United States.
The Democrats were right.
Just as importantly, they built an even better machine to exploit that assumption.
Demographics and Mechanics made for a lethal combination.
It's a combination that Republicans must address, and the clock is ticking. The only question is will we run out of time.
UPDATE: From last week Breitbart.com, no better explanation of why Republican's lost the Mechanics of this race. As an Information Technology professional for almost 20 years, I can say with confidence that "haribrained scheme" is a polite description of what they were trying to do. (More on mechanics in a later post.)
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