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Jim Letourneau's Blog

Investing, Technology, Travel, Geology, Music, Golf. I think that covers it.

The Moneyball Election

Everything about the 2016 presidential election will soon make sense. History will do its job and give us a useful narrative.  There were few correct predictions about the outcome of the 2016 election. About half the population is content and the other half is livid. I don't think we've seen the last presidential election.

Big data is a big deal when it comes to presidential election campaigns. In the arms race for voters, the victors and their consultants only have 4 years before they go back into battle. While they're importance is often overstated, I am still a sucker for underdog data geek wins. 

Every decision of the campaign—where to spend the money, who to target, how to target them, what to speak to them about, what channels of communications to use, what messages to send—was all driven by our data.
— Cambridge Analytica CEO Alexander Nix

Obama's big data consultants were viewed as white knights and they rode their success into numerous consultancies hired by the Clinton campaign.

In 2016 they became the overpaid underachieving  establishment outplayed by a team with half the budget. They did not hesitate to heap scorn on their opponents who clearly did not know how to run an election campaign. A Clinton loss was inconceivable.

We played Moneyball, asking ourselves which states will get the best ROI for the electoral vote. I asked, how can we get Trump’s message to that consumer for the least amount of cost?
— Jared Kushner

I suggest reading Nate Silver's ongoing rehash of the 2016 presidential election (The Real Story of 2016). When it comes to big data interpretation, there isn't much room for ego. While many got the election outcome wrong, few have done the work to try to explain where they went wrong. 

With rare exception, reporters tended to portray Trump’s Electoral College strategy as being whimsical and haphazard, even when it was doing some pretty smart things. That may have helped Trump’s team to shut out the noise and maximize its candidate’s chances of winning the election.
— Nate Silver