The PJ Tatler

Obama TV Ads Targeted Extremely Low-Info Voters

Romney had ORCA, which flopped. Obama had “the Optimizer.” “The Optimizer” may have been a key to Obama’s win.

In essence, said Larry Grisolano, who helped lead the development of the system, it created a new set of ratings based on the political leanings of categories of people the Obama campaign was interested in reaching, allowing the campaign to buy its advertising on political terms as opposed to traditional television industry terms.

“We were able to create a set of ratings based on a model of our target voters, as opposed to the broader categories that are kind of defined by traditional advertising ratings,” he said.

Erik Smith, another senior strategist, said a decision by “super PACS” supporting Mr. Romney to hold off on their first major anti-Obama advertising push until well after the primaries had given the team extra time to develop its system.

Through its vast array of information collected via its e-mail list, Facebook and millions of door-to-door discussions conducted by volunteers in swing states — and fed into the campaign database — the campaign devised a ranking scale for voters ranging from likeliest to support Mr. Obama to least likely.

Then the advertising team worked backward to figure out what sorts of programs likely and undecided voters were liable to watch, and when. It did so using not only traditional Nielsen Media Research data but also newly available information from set-top cable boxes that gave a far more detailed sense of how the groups watched television, and, more important, commercials.

The answers led to advertising purchases that the campaign might not have made, especially as it pursued undecided voters who did not regularly go to traditional sources for news.

So it was, said Jim Margolis, a senior advertising strategist, that the campaign bought more late-night advertising time than it otherwise would have on “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon,” “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” ESPN and, most surprisingly, TV Land, the basic cable network devoted to reruns of old programs.

In the case of TV Land, Mr. Margolis said, the campaign was seeking to reach “folks who may not be as political, may not be deciding until later.”

“A lot of these people are lower-information voters,” he said, “not necessarily tuned to politics and watching a little more programming that is out of the main lane of what most of us think of.”

Read the rest. I’ve written several posts on the demographic and cultural shifts that surely fed Obama’s voter turnout, and I’ve also written on the possibility that he and his allies cheated. I’m not discounting any of that. But none of them by themselves explain why Obama’s base could be so dispirited yet still end up handing him another term. Obama had to find a way to bring new voters in to replace defectors, along with the other factors that ended up helping him. The trick was, he had to find voters who don’t know much about what’s going on in the world.

All together, though, it looks more and more like Obama won a tactical rather than demographic or broader strategic victory. He and Axelrod had four years to build out their plans and machines. Each little piece — the Optimizer, the Voter Participation Center, the Obama Phones, outright cheating, plus efforts to depress Romney’s vote — played its part.

What I’m saying is, Barack Obama and David Axelrod found a way to hack the election. Not literally, not hacking electronic voting machines or anything like that. They found every weakness in the system and their opponent and exploited them all. They bought votes where they could, they scrounged for new votes where they found them, they overwhelmed voter registrars with garbage registrations to slip some fraudulent votes in, etc. They didn’t win any one way so much as they won by pulling every move they could think of. They also fought countermeasures that might have defeated them, such as voter ID.

They hacked their way back into power, and will use another weakness in the system — Harry Reid’s apathy toward keeping the Senate a strong constitutional body — to hack their way into more power.