Monday, November 7, 2011

Mental note: campaign managers do not like economic forecast models

From an e-mail to supporters from Jim Messina, campaign manager for Obama 2012:
This weekend, The New York Times Magazine ran a long analysis of the 2012 election headlined, "Is Obama toast?"
It uses a mathematical formula to conclude who will win this race.
In other words, it says neither you nor Barack Obama has a role to play in this election, because the outcome is essentially predetermined.
We disagree. [...]
[The] dramatic differences between the Republican nominee and President Obama will be crystal clear to Americans as the 2012 election approaches, because our grassroots organization in all 50 states will be having conversations every single day with their friends, families, co-workers, and neighbors.
That grassroots organizational advantage is a critical factor in this election that the Times' "formula" doesn't consider at all.
There's a quite natural hatred by campaign managers toward economic forecast models like Nate Silver's. They pretty much deny the campaign any agency at all. And that's not really fair. After all, there have been plenty of studies showing at least modest campaign effects -- a campaign's decision to devote resources to particular areas at particular times can affect votes, a campaign's message can affect how voters evaluate candidates, etc. But it's quite possible that opposing parties' campaigns largely cancel each other out. At any rate, we know that you can predict elections pretty reliably without any reference to the skills or decisions of the campaign managers.

If I were a campaign manager, that would piss me off, too.

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