Wednesday, November 14, 2012

I feel your Bain

Everybody's piling on Marc Thiessen's piecelet in the Washington Post, but I just can't help myself:
Mitt Romney was not the cool candidate. He ran on competence. But having the data system your campaign is relying on to turn out the vote crash on Election Day is incompetent. Not testing that system before Election Day is inexcusable. And letting a community organizer run a more precise, data-driven, metrics-based campaign than a Bain Capital executive is incomprehensible.
No, as Booman says, incomprehensible is not exactly the word for it.  "Comprehensible" might be better, or "unsurprising", or, "exactly what you'd expect". Obama's work experience is just a lot more relevant than Romney's. There's a reason they call it community organizing: because it consists of organizing communities, which is exactly what a political campaign needs to do. Bain Capital executives may dazzle you with numbers, but they don't use them in that way.

Modern Mechanix, July 1929.
For instance, also from Booman,
There are still some votes to count but as of right now Mitt Romney has 58,777,012 votes. In 2008, John McCain received 59,934,814 votes. So, Rich Beeson is telling the National Review with a straight face that his team turned out the votes they needed to win according to their own models even though they turned out 1.2 million fewer voters than John McCain did four years ago. John McCain lost by 9.5 million votes, and Romney turned out 1.2 million less than that. Basically, John Beeson is saying that his model indicated that Romney could get approximately 11 million fewer votes than McCain needed to tie, despite population growth over the last four years, and that he would be in a perfect position to beat the president.
Rich Beeson's "model" isn't a campaign handicapper's model of how a candidate wins. It's "we did something right two years ago, so let's assume we're still doing it." I don't think they have a clue what works, except, ironically, that they recognize the value of "throwing money at the problem". Rove's famous math is just the same this year as it was when his candidates won. Terrorist irredentist Belgian imperialist Newt Gingrich still thinks he won the 1994 midterms with his "contract for America" even though hardly any voters had heard of it. Except for the money part, which really does do something (just as it does in improving schools, countering poverty, and what not), the business is basically a fraud.

I was also interested to learn that Ph.D. candidate and soccer mom Paula Broadwell, deciding to write a book instead of her dissertation, got literary by hiring a ghost writer, Vernon Loeb. That is, what she wanted specifically was to be not just a biographer, but a society biographer. It's not that she didn't work damn hard, flying around the world and interviewing everybody she could, it's just that she didn't work in a small and silent room. There had to be a minimum-wage peon to transcribe the interviews, and a handsomely paid Loeb to stitch the paragraphs together.

What I wanted to say was, it's not so much the case I tend to imagine, that bosses really don't know what work is; that's too simple. But their model of it, the image of work that lives with the word in their minds, isn't of making or maintaining or fixing or understanding things—it's advertising and marketing—it's making things look more valuable than they actually are. That's what the numbers do in private equity.

So Romney hired pollsters that would make him look like a winner, not even realizing that he might want to know to what extent he really was a winner or not at any given point in time. It would be sad if it wasn't so funny.
Cleveland model and fashion photographer—yellow. By Pazza Photography.

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