Does the Republican Party Really Intend to Learn Anything?

Message matters. Mode matters. Everything matters when you’re in a bare-handed fight to the death over a 2-point margin.

We heard a lot of sniggering from Republicans over Obama’s profligate spending on supposedly outmoded, ineffective, and too-expensive field offices.

And we heard a lot from the Republican side about how the GOP was doing things better and more efficiently — touting how many “touches” they had from knocks, personal calls, robocalls and e-mails. 

Well, some of these modes of contact are just plain worthless. And I’m sure a lot of the messages used, even with the effective modes, were subpar or worthless. The proof of the pudding is in the eating, and the taste was apparently rancid to a lot of GOTV and persuasion targets.

Time had a fascinating piece on Obama’s tech advantages:

The magic tricks that opened wallets were then repurposed to turn out votes. The analytics team used four streams of polling data to build a detailed picture of voters in key states.

But it’s not just superior technical prowess on the Obama side; their voter psychology smarts are probably even more important. They know much better than us which mode and message works with whom and when and for what. Some messages and modes are generally effective, some aren’t, some work better for fundraising and others for persuasion and still others for GOTV. They can do much, much more with every dollar they raise and every volunteer that signs up.

And today we have a Washington Post piece claiming that Republicans are serious about finding out what went wrong and why this year:

Top Republican officials, stunned by the extent of their election losses Tuesday night, have begun an exhaustive review to figure out what went so wrong and how to fix it. . .

. . . The review began on election night with polls in key states, and next week the party will begin a string of voter focus groups.

Know what I didn’t see mentioned in this article? Anything new or any mention of experiments. I saw a whole lot about focus groups and straight polling, debriefs with volunteers. All fine in moderation, but how do they expect to get the right answers from the old methods that left them flat-footed and “shellshocked” in defeat on election eve?

It’s not magic, and it didn’t happen overnight. They know a whole lot more than we do because they’ve been testing these things seriously for years, with reports of 400-600 experiments under their belt that are proprietary to the progressive movement. 

Knowledge is power, and they have the knowledge. We need to learn, and quickly. You don’t do that with outdated textbooks.