Did Mitt Romney’s failed Orca app cost him the election?

By Kramer Phillips, National Monitor | November 11, 2012

Did Mitt Romney’s failed Orca app cost him the election?

Romney is losing Facebook friends by the hundreds.

The Romney campaign never saw it coming: President Barack Obama defeated Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential election. As election day grew nearer, the Romney campaign was confident that public polls were overestimating the number of Democrats that would turn out on election day in swing states. Not only did the Romney campaign have confidence that the public polls in swing states were wrong but they had a secret weapon, nicknamed Project Orca, to help them allocate get-out-the-vote efforts on election day. Unfortunately, Project Orca turned out to be a “fail whale” of a plan.

While we can’t calculate exactly how many votes the Romney campaign’s epic tech meltdown cost the former Massachusetts governor, Mashable is absolutely sure that Mr. Romney is losing hundreds of Facebook friends every hour. The tech website reports that more than 800 Facebook friends per hour are leaving the governor’s official Facebook page. President Obama, however, has added more than 800,000 Facebook friends since winning a second term in the Oval Office.

In the days leading up to the election, the Romney campaign touted the technological prowess of Project Orca, a mobile web app that would provide real-time information to staff members working in TD Garden, arguing that it gave them a technological advantage over the Obama campaign. The Romney campaign hoped that Project Orca would give them real-time voter information in swing states like Florida, Colorado, Ohio and Virginia.

“Project ORCA is a massive undertaking – the Republican Party’s newest, unprecedented and most technologically advanced plan to win the 2012 presidential election,” the Romney campaign noted in a statement before November 6. “It is estimated that Project ORCA will decipher 18 to 23 million people have voted by the time all voting has concluded.  This massive ‘sample size’ not only ensure the most accurate ballot projections ever, but it will also ensure hyper-accuracy of our supporter targeting as we work to turn them out to the polls.”

The Romney campaign had hoped that Project Orca would help them bring in thousands of votes for their candidate. They had sent out 34,000 volunteers into the field in swing states with the Orca mobile web app, feeling confident that these volunteers would be able to transmit real-time information to staffers in TD Garden. The staffers, as a result of the real-time intelligence, would be able to direct critical get-out-the-vote efforts in swing states by allocated resources as needed.

Unfortunately, the costly app never worked as the Romney campaign had planned. A source within the Romney campaign told Breitbart.com that hundreds of volunteers called his team telling them that they weren’t able to use the mobile web app because of technical issues.

Zac Moffatt, the Romney campaign’s digital director, told ABC News that Orca had never been properly tested. “Was it flawless? No,” Zac Moffatt said. “Without a doubt, Orca had its challenges.”

“The primary issue was we beta-tested in a different environment than the Garden. There was so much data coming in — 1200 records or more per minute — it shut down the system for a time. Users were frustrated by lag, and some people dropped off and we experienced attrition as a result,” Mr. Moffatt told CNET.

According to ABC News’ Michael Falcone, even the name of the Romney campaign’s sophisticated poll-monitoring system was meant to be a dig at the Obama campaign. The Obama campaign had conducted an advanced data-gathering effort called Project Narwhal. The Orca, the Romney team said, is a natural predator of the narwhal.

Whether or not the Republican presidential nominee’s high-tech poll-monitoring app lost hip hundreds or thousands of votes, it’s one more piece of evidence that Obama campaign was a more well-oiled machine than the Romney campaign.

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