I began this post with an anecdote about a restaurant manager who sat in a booth studying spreadsheets while the restaurant was in chaos and failing to get food on the tables. This article from the Washington Post made me think of it again. Apparently the Clinton campaign was being run by a computer algorithm named Ada.
According to aides, a raft of polling numbers, public and private, were fed into the algorithm, as well as ground-level voter data meticulously collected by the campaign. Once early voting began, those numbers were factored in, too.
What Ada did, based on all that data, aides said, was run 400,000 simulations a day of what the race against Trump might look like. A report that was spit out would give campaign manager Robby Mook and others a detailed picture of which battleground states were most likely to tip the race in one direction or another — and guide decisions about where to spend time and deploy resources.
The use of analytics by campaigns was hardly unprecedented. But Clinton aides were convinced their work, which was far more sophisticated than anything employed by President Obama or GOP nominee Mitt Romney in 2012, gave them a big strategic advantage over Trump.
So where did Ada go wrong?
About some things, she was apparently right. Aides say Pennsylvania was pegged as an extremely important state early on, which explains why Clinton was such a frequent visitor and chose to hold her penultimate rally in Philadelphia on Monday night.
But it appears that the importance of other states Clinton would lose — including Michigan and Wisconsin — never became fully apparent or that it was too late once it did. …
… Like much of the political establishment Ada appeared to underestimate the power of rural voters in Rust Belt states.
There are Democrats in Michigan, right? Did the Clinton campaign not speak to actual human beings outside the Beltway?