Call Me Ishmael, or, the Romney Fail Whale


The Romney high command had cloaked the system in secrecy to maintain what it hoped would be a true competitive turnout advantage. But by limiting the number of people with access to Orca, the campaign was not able to train its field operatives to use it or do the necessary beta-testing to work out the kinks that typically plague new software.

“It did not work perfectly,” said Rich Beeson, the Romney campaign’s political director, in an interview.He acknowledged that Orca crashed in the morning on Election Day. At first the campaign thought the system had been hacked, he said. Passwords and user names for the 34,000 volunteers using the program had to be reset.

I once started a job at a florist’s shop on Valentine’s Day. I was in high school, there was no Internet, and I didn’t know a Peruvian lily from a bromeliad. It was a fucking disaster. My training consisted of being taught how to open the register drawer. The phone never stopped ringing. People were coming in asking for things I had no idea if we could give them. Clueless assholes who apparently never HEARD of Valentine’s Day were begging us to make arrangements with the “my wife’s gonna kill me” plea and I wanted to brand a calendar onto their arms, like it’s the same day every year, geniuses. We ran out of roses and then we ran out of everything else, to the point where the last guy who wandered in at 9 p.m. looking like he’d been run over by a bus got a green plant for which we charged him $50 and I wanted to include a card for a relationship counselor.

You know what I learned from that experience? Ninety percent of emergencies are the result of piss-poor planning and managerial laziness. Who the fuck starts a high school kid employee with no training at a florist on Valentine’s Day? It irritates me just thinking about it now, like there was no reason that day had to be that stressful for everyone involved. I thought of that when I read this:

But Beeson also said Orca was able to provide voting data on 91 percent of the precincts and accounted for turning out some 14.3 million voters. “At the end of the day I can look any donor in the eye and say we used our resources effectively,” he said. “This is the first time we have attempted to do anything on this scale. By no means was it an abject failure.”

Actually, it kind of was, given that your candidate lost resoundingly. A victory is not that your program is shiny. A victory is that it does what it’s supposed to do.

Who the fuck rolls out a brand-new operation on fucking ELECTION DAY? Who does this? This is the world’s most easily preventable clusterfuck, and they managed not to prevent it. Was there nobody in the room screaming that “let’s take a bash at this and see if it works, Biff” is a terrible way to handle the days when things matter.

After watching the RNC I’m not surprised things went down this way, but if I was a donor and this guy looked me in the eye and said they used their resources effectively, I’d kick him in the dick. You’ve got to be kidding me. Mr. A and I rehearsed our wedding more seriously than this, and neither of us was in the running for leadership of the free world at the end of that day.


14 thoughts on “Call Me Ishmael, or, the Romney Fail Whale

  1. “Who the fuck rolls out a brand-new operation on fucking ELECTION DAY? Who does this?”
    Particularly in the light of the large numbers of voters who had already voted by then.
    Even if it had worked flawlessly, what are the chances it would have made any difference? I knocked on a lot of doors, but all of them before election day. If you haven’t ‘gotten them’ by election day, what are the chances you can ‘get them’ ON election day?

  2. Who the fuck rolls out a brand-new operation on fucking ELECTION DAY? Who does this?
    Software development often runs late, especially when poorly managed. Late projects can’t be rescued by throwing more manpower at them. Altering the software requirements, especially later in the development cycle, further trashes the schedule. Given that the software wasn’t turned on till election day, the developers were probably still tinkering with the code late on the night before, hastily trying to get it into some barely functioning state.
    Given that they’ve now got a barely functioning prototype, they’ve got no excuse for not having a working version ready for the next election.

  3. This particular train wreck is one that I haven’t been able to look away from. I’ve read everything I could find on it – because I just can’t wrap my brain around them using election day for not beta but freaking alpha testing the damned thing.
    The other thing that kills me on this is the sooper dooper secrecy this thing is so awesome but we can’t let you see it. Bragging about how great it was, and then not testing it.
    Cuz this is the whole thing in a nutshell to me – the MittWit wanted me to vote for him because he was such an outstanding businessman, and so very, very competent, and then he manages something like this. Yeah right, you’re that good, MittWit.

  4. Here are some more great articles about the Fail Whale:
    This person was a Romney volunteer and the clusterfuck of dumbassery that he was inflicted with was awesome.
    a very good tech site. Read the comments for all kinds of “WFT, they didn’t [tech term I don’t understand]-test it? WFT?”
    and the follow up:
    Hey, guess what? The guys who wrote the Fail Whale say it’s not a Fail Whale! AND the democrats sabotaged it! AND we should have won! So there!
    My theory is Romney got taken by grifters. Actually, no. Romney ran his campaign the way he ran the Olympics and the way he was gov. of MA: funnel tons of money to your buddies, and if it works take credit!

  5. The scary thing is that in spite of all the fuckups and confusion, the Romney/Ryan team still got 48% of the vote albeit in the wrong states. You can bet your ass the guys who live at 740 Park Avenue will learn from this experience and will undoubtedly make us pay for these miscalculations in the upcoming elections and get even more massive tax cuts while totally dismantling what remains of FDR’s legacy.

  6. and I just found this one, from RedState. Check out the comments, they are comedy gold with a tiny hint of sanity every once in a while.
    Here’s a typical sample:

    billcor • 3 days ago
    THANK YOU for bringing this to light. I’m starting to sound like a broken record here, but : DATA IS KILLING US.
    We ARE the party of reason, and logic. We are the ones that actually know what we’re talking about, and stand firm. We need to run these charlatans out of town on a rail, and start over NOW. No more listening to wishful thinking polls ( *cough* Karl Rove, Scott Rassmussen *cough*). No more trusting the “elites”!

    Share ›
    This comment was deleted.
    Jack_Savage RegisteredJustForThisComment • 3 days ago
    No – “Pants on Fire” would be Sandra Fluke and the rest of the female supporters of the Crotch Party.
    Ever notice how they’re…well…not that hot?
    20 2

    Share ›

  7. As more and more evidence of the Romney campaign’s miserable failure is revealed, I become ever more convinced that the nation dodged a massive bullet last week. These are the people who would have been put in charge of the nation? They couldn’t even properly beta test their own crucial election software doohickey? Jesus.
    This all makes me understand the Bush Administration failures so much more. The Heckuva Job Brownie party is simply incompetent.

  8. This in a nutshell is why the Republicans should never be allowed to run anything, ever. It’s no wonder everything Romney was ever in charge of was dismantled—he couldn’t possibly actually RUN a business. It’s hard, mom.

  9. It’s no wonder Romney and his ilk feel threatened by Obama. He represents real meritocracy, and his example exposes them as frauds.

  10. Actually, they had received an email from HQ saying that the election was actually on November 7, so they thought they had one more day.

  11. @Southern Belle – “The Heckuva Job Brownie party is simply incompetent.”
    *) And yet it is the repubs that consistently both 1) hold the govt is incompetent and 2) that it is so incompetent that it can’t be fixed.
    Dare I suggest this is simple projection of their own shortcomings?
    *) And this election was run by a “businessman” with the self proclaimed mantra of the buesinessman can fix anything. If they are this incompetent, do we really want to do away with regs and let business do what it wants to?

  12. @M31. Thanks for the links. I’m still tring to get my mind around several things.
    While voter rolls may be public records, I’ve got to admit that I resent EITHER party sitting at the polls and following whether I have voted or not. This chimes in well with those who report that they got cards in the mail listing how their neighbors had voted in past elections (even though hopefully the cards really didn’t know but based on demographic data and possibly reponses to telephone polls done in the past). Anything that gives the appearance of the ballot box not being private weakens our elections.
    Imagine the next round. We’ve already had these cards. We know the Romney campaign encouraged business owners to indirectly tell employees that their job depends on Romney being re-elected. We already know the credit bureaus scarf all sorts of data. We already know that organizations not in the public eye scarf even more (including scarfing from the credit bureaus.
    Next election: You’ll get a card, forged to look like from your employer, telling you how your neighbors voted and how their vote will affect your job.
    And I **LOVE** the comment that we are the party of logic and reason but we don’t use data. (No input, so what do we reason with?)

  13. @M31, Looking at your links and thinking of how the repubs will modernize govt.
    Even though the talk of cracking the system this time is just the joy of a full blown conspiracy theory (and the inherrent desire of the right to be on thge receiving end of such a theory). What I’m gathering is that the system seems designed with a lack of basic security. In short, should any cracker want to disrupt future uses of such software, the Romney campaign system has left the front door unlocked, wide open, and with a flashing neon sign inviting disruption.
    Anyone who reads the news knows of various activist cracker groups (and I intentionally use cracker instead of hacker to emphasize that these folks do it either to disrupt or to further criminal ends). It is obvious that ORCA-like applications would be an irresistable plum.
    Yet the system seems designed around a central point. A single server. That the ISP shut it down for detecting a suspected DDoS shows a basic vulnerability. (Also shows they didn’t bother to coordinate with the ISP. If you’re putting something of this size online, you coordinate with the ISP to be sure that your service parameters will handle it.)
    Based on one of your links, it appears that the campaign hadn’t really considered what sorts of connectivity that the volunteers would need at the training session. It sounds like one volunteer brought up potential problems and all of a sudden they decided that they would need “ethernet” connections (the way it is used, it sounds as if they didn’t know that ethernet has both wired and wireless protocols). Hearing this, I wonder if the connection to the ORCA server even required any sort of secure connection (an especially if it required some sort of secure connection that a kindergartener didn’t know how to break).
    The problem with distributing access codes shows a system that could easily put the access codes in a cracker’s hands. Lets face it, all sorts of people working for a campaign have some sort of access to the data. The simple basic security of getting the correct access codes to the correct people and then giving each person access to only their data without the ability to monkey with other data is a gigantic nightmare. What I’m reading clearly indicates that they failed. And they failed on a system that allowed access from a huge number of unvetted people.
    They heavily hit the lack of any alpha testing. One article says it was a joint effort of Microsoft and another software company. Microsoft is still reeling from a past history of releasing both operating systems and software without sufficient testing.

Comments are closed.