Almost two months out from the election, the post-mortem continues. Democratic Party insiders, commentators, and analysts continue to wonder what went awry. All of the analytical models pointed to a likely Clinton victory.
There’s the usual suspects: Russian hacking and Comey are the two biggest culprits. According to Clinton’s biggest defenders, they were instrumental in sabotaging her likely win.
But increasingly it becomes apparent that the Clinton campaign hindered themselves in a number of ways. Recent news revealed that Bernie surrogates warned Team Hillary about its shortcomings in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. But the Bernie supporters say their concerns were ignored.
Now it’s also apparent that Hillary’s team overly relied on analytics, ignoring tracking polls and more traditional methods of outreach.
Innovations in campaign analytics go back to the 1970’s, but were really pioneered in the 2004 election. Howard Dean, John Kerry, and George W. Bush all had campaigns that pushed anlaytics. But Obama’s 2008 campaign took big data to a whole new level, which made it the standard for Democratic elite operatives.
But this led to some leaving more traditional methods of polling behind, as well as minimizing on-the-ground politicking.
As political analyst Charlie Cook writes in the National Journal:
The reliance, or perhaps overreliance on analytics, may be one of the factors contributing to Clinton’s surprise defeat. The Clinton team was so confident in its analytical models that it opted not to conduct tracking polls in a number of states during the last month of the campaign. As a consequence, deteriorating support in states such as Michigan and Wisconsin fell below the radar screen, slippage that that traditional tracking polls would have certainly caught.
The lack of engagement with what was going on in Wisconsin and Michigan is especially surprising.
The Service Employees International Union started hearing about the anxiety in Michigan early, and tried to convince Clinton’s campaign to put boots on the ground there. Instead, the campaign ordered them to stay in Iowa to convince Trump to compete there. This, in addition to ignoring pleas of the Sanders surrogates about the Rust Belt, paints a picture of monumental negligence and hubris by Team Clinton.
The lesson? Maybe more attention to grassroots engagement instead of overreliance of big data and too-clever-by-half political maneuvering.
Or, as many critics on the left are eager to point out, the problem was with the candidate all along—the campaign was just a reflection of that.