Presidential Campaigns: The Project of a Campaign

Now that we are in the throes of a heated presidential campaign cycle, I always look at the campaigns with the eyes of an operative and of a project manager.  As an operative, I watch at the words that are said and the messaging of a campaign.  The stops, the people, and the relationships all take a pretty prominent role in determining the success or failure of a campaign.  Simply look at the talking heads and the impact of the first debate to see a prime example of that.

However, as a project manager, I evaluate the campaigns from a different perspective.  What systems do they have built?  Can we see their quality objectives?  The 2012 presidential campaign is an amazing case study for a project manager, especially the relative Get Out The Vote – “GOTV” – operations of the Romney and Obama teams.  The Romney operations, dubbed Operation Orca, ended up as an “unmitigated disaster” according to Ace of Spades blog.  The first hand experience of this particular campaign worker who detailed what appears to be a real lack of project management skills.  Internal marketing instead of volunteer training is one minor example of the larger problem that was.

By comparison, Time covered wonderfully the nature of Obama’s data-driven campaign operation.  “Jim Messina had promised a totally different, metric-driven kind of campaign in which politics was the goal but political instincts might not be the means,” the piece wrote.  What an absolutely amazing statement to a project manager.  Although general in nature, “politics was the goal” is a clear statement of a quality objective (I assume this was better defined internally to the campaign).  Removing political instincts, though, as the primary driver of decision making is gold.  Metrics, data, and insight drove decision making.  Classic signs that Messina understood the complex, but realistically project-like nature, of a political campaign.

I’m not one to celebrate victory of an opponent.  I did not support the president’s re-election effort and worked tirelessly here in Georgia to try and help the Romney campaign and down ballot races. However, as a Republican I do sit back and wonder what we did wrong and how to improve it.  This is a case study on exactly that.  We got beat by better project managers.  In a down economy, with a President who passed a widely unfavorable health care “reform” using dubious means, we got beat.  Better project managers beat us.

Repeat that until it sinks in.  Better project managers beat us…