The PJ Tatler

Romney Campaign Unleashes Killer Turnout App

Organization matters in politics. Being a good candidate matters, making good speeches matters, having a good message matters, and social networking and fundraising and all of that matter. But organization really matters if you’re going to run a competitive campaign to capture the American presidency. A great candidate can lose if he isn’t backed with a strong organization, and conversely, an unqualified candidate can win if he has a strong organization behind him. The latter is what happened four years ago, when an agile and smart organization helped install a president who had no executive experience whatsoever.

Mitt Romney has run organizations as diverse as an office supply chain, the Salt Lake City Olympic Games, and the executive branch of the government of Massachusetts. Romney has been running a very good presidential campaign organization for a while now. That organization will be using a new weapon on Election Day that could make the difference in close contests. An email from the Romney campaign describes the new turnout system, called “Project ORCA.”

Project ORCA is a massive undertaking – the Republican Party’s newest, unprecedented and most technologically advanced plan to win the 2012 presidential election.

The project operates via a web-based app volunteers use to relay the most up-to-date poll information to a “national dashboard” at the Boston headquarters. From there, data will be interpreted and utilized to plan voter turnout tactics on Election Day.

Project ORCA enhances and magnifies the impact of the turnout operation. To date, we have more than 34,000 volunteers throughout the target states, and we will have more than 800 volunteers at headquarters in Boston, who will serve as a sort of “help desk,” making sure volunteers in the states have everything they need to get their job done.

It is estimated that Project ORCA will decipher 18 to 23 million people have voted by the time all voting has concluded.  This massive “sample size” not only ensure the most accurate ballot projections ever, but it will also ensure hyper-accuracy of our supporter targeting as we work to turn them out to the polls.

The general idea is to conduct the world’s largest exit poll.  Through Project ORCA, at any given moment we will know the current ballot in every State, DMA & County… For example: if we happen to be down in a state at lunch time, we can pinpoint exactly what is causing. So, if we know we’re going to win X state by 3 points, let’s move our resources to Y state, county.  In sum, Project ORCA will give us an enormous advantage by being able to know the current result of a state.

Another key component to Project ORCA is state-of-the-art dashboard.  For the past several months, a “brain” has been built into this dashboard and it will take-in, analyze and recommend actions on the millions of pieces of incoming data.  In the fast-paced environment of an Election Day command center – having this programmed “brain” will alert decision-makers to key findings and suggest reallocation of resources.

Project ORCA will also allow us to filter out Romney supporters who have already voted from all of our GOTV lists.  So all volunteers, whether physically at a phone bank or calling online will no longer be calling several supporters who have already cast a vote.  Instead, we’ll see an unprecedented efficiency among volunteer turnout efforts where virtually no phone calls or time is wasted calling those who have already voted.

The idea for Project ORCA started in the primary, when the campaign had people working together both in the states and in Boston.  Volunteers in precincts of key states called in reports on voting to those working from headquarters in Boston.

In the primary, we learned it was difficult to be working from Boston and really affect voter turnout in the states. It was disappointing to receive data later and realize if we had access to that data earlier, we could have done something differently and affected the outcome.

We have tweaked and improved Project ORCA throughout primary, so going into the general, we had several ideas and more time to incorporate those ideas into a system that would work nationally.