We had the chance to listen to David Plouffe, manager of the Obama presidential campaign, who was in town to talk about his new book, The Audacity to Win: The Inside Story and Lessons of Barack Obama’s Historic Victory. It impressed that the book may be a bit of a Moneyball with a political twist: a book that can teach a fair amount about analytics no matter what you think of Obama just the way one didn’t need to be a baseball fan to learn from Moneyball.
Plouffe talked a lot about how the campaign used data analysis to achieve its historic victory. Early in the campaign they decided to bet heavily on winning the Iowa caucuses. Their analysis showed that if the typical caucus participants showed up, they would come in third at best. In order to win they had to fundamentally change the composition of the electorate showing up in Iowa.
“We had our own metrics,” Plouffe said. He continued that they kept following those metrics despite commentary by pundits. “We believed in our metrics and we were committed to them.”
After several months of debate over stimulus plans and health care reform bills, it can be possible to forget what tremendous odds the Obama overcame to beat the other candidates. As described in the review in the New York Times, the campaign:
“grew from a tiny start-up facing truly long-shot odds into a fully formed campaign that drew volunteers from across traditional political lines, raised record amounts of funds online from small donors and built a viral grass-roots operation.”
That was a sentiment that stayed true throughout the entire the campaign. He said that it was Obama’s idea to wage a grassroots campaign as the way to build the voter base they needed to win.
“Barack Obama is a chess player among checker players,” he said.
Just last night at a separate event, we listened to David Gergen describing a recent off-the-record lunch he had with Obama. “He’s the most analytical president we’ve had since Clinton and the most grounded since Reagan. It’s an unusual combination.”
Plouffe sounded like a true analytics believer as he talked about the decision-making process in the campaign: “If you can know something, know it,” he said. “It takes opinion off the table.” Perhaps his book is the perfect gift for you and the analytics enthusiasts on your holiday list.
Click here to purchase The Audacity to Win: The Inside Story and Lessons of Barack Obama’s Historic Victory
Click here to purchase Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game