Clinton’s campaign comeuppance: diagramming Hillary Clinton’s defeat

I volunteered on the Clinton campaign in Florida.

I was not working at some cushy office in Washington DC; I was down on the ground going door to door in Florida hoping to get Clinton’s message out, but sadly in vain.

By all accounts, I knew Mrs. Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonGrassley blasts Democrats over unwillingness to probe Clinton GOP lawmakers cite new allegations of political bias in FBI Top intel Dem: Trump Jr. refused to answer questions about Trump Tower discussions with father MORE would likely lose in Florida, but was stunned by her loss nationwide. While anecdotal, I believe my account is important to add to the conversation of the challenges of primarily date driven campaigns such as Clinton’s.

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A vast majority of polls pointed to Mrs. Clinton winning by a landslide, and we were overwhelming confidant. The Huffington Post gave Clinton a 98.2 percent chance of winning, and gave Mr. Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpHouse Democrat slams Donald Trump Jr. for ‘serious case of amnesia’ after testimony Skier Lindsey Vonn: I don’t want to represent Trump at Olympics Poll: 4 in 10 Republicans think senior Trump advisers had improper dealings with Russia MORE no clear path to victory. The New York Times gave Clinton an 85 percent chance of victory, and at one point, Nate Silver from FiveThiryEight gave Clinton a 71.4 percent chance of winning. RealClearPolitics, a poll aggregate, had Clinton leading Trump among all the major polls.

Make no mistake, the Clinton campaign, specifically former President Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonMueller’s probe doesn't end with a bang, but with a whimper Mark Mellman: History’s judgment Congress should massively ramp up funding for the NIH MORE, made a number of mistakes.

This was déjà vu.

In 2008, Mr. Clinton caused quite a stir when he said Senator Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaPatagonia files suit against Trump cuts to Utah monuments Former Dem Tenn. gov to launch Senate bid: report Eighth Franken accuser comes forward as Dems call for resignation MORE years ago would have gotten him coffee. This time around, Mr. Clinton discussion on Attorney General Loretta Lynch’s plane while his wife remained under investigation by the department she oversaw was simply unforgiveable.

Some things were out of the Clinton campaign’s control. The Russian-state sponsored hacks that released damaging information through Wikileaks likely depressed the millennial and progressive voter turnout in the general election.

Also, the litany of nonsensical Benghazi hearings purposely took a toll on Mrs. Clinton’s reputiation. A number of GOP Congressmen already acknowledged that was the intention. Clinton gracefully faced an 11-hour interrogation by the House Select Committee on Benghazi and still the GOP led investigation found only she used a private server.

Nonetheless, even FBI director James Comey agreed while Clinton was careless, she never intentionally violated any laws when she used the aforementioned server. Recently, Mr. Silver of FiveThiryEight said Comey’s letter to Congress sent out so near to the election was the reason of Mrs. Clinton’s loss. While in hindsight, even after the release of the letter, Mr. Silver still gave Clinton a 65 percent chance of winning

In addition, the FBI cleared Mrs. Clinton prior to the election. I believe the letter was a red-herring in lieu of all of Trump’s controversies

With money being no issue, supporters such as myself thought Mrs. Clinton could easily combat any negative messaging. According to Bloomberg, Clinton raised approximately $1.1 billion for her presidential campaign compared to Mr. Trump that raise $638 million. This massive amount of money should have given Clinton a substantial advantage.

In politics, money raised is important, but how money spent is even more important. Trump capitalized on the frugality of his campaign. While Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook made $121,000 per year, some of Trump’s higher level staffers such as campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s deputy, Rick Gates, worked for free at times.

By some accounts, the Trump campaign simply didn’t have the organization to win in states as Florida. According to FiveThirtyEight, nationwide, the Clinton campaign had double the amount of field offices than the Trump campaign (489 vs. 207). In Florida alone, Clinton has 68 field offices compared to the meager 29 for the Trump campaign.  To campaign volunteers such as myself, this sounded like a sure bet.

The weakest link in the chain was the lack of accurate voter data. I was one of the volunteers that went door to door for Mrs. Clinton in Florida. We relied on a haphazard Democratic Party endorsed voter database known as NGP VAN's VoteBuilder.

In fact, her campaign spent a prodigious amount of money on this complex, yet deeply flawed voter system. Our ground game was simple enough: the voting database would spit out names of potential voters, and we would simply canvass the area reminding them to vote or support Clinton. 

Regrettably, the voter database was excruciatingly erroneous; a striking majority of households were either no longer residents, not voters, or Republicans. As a candidate for elected office twice, I believe the Clinton campaign could have simply obtained better information merely by contacting the secretary of state’s office for each respective state for a small charge and obtain better voter information.

Then, the campaign could have designed a program or used a free, yet much more accurate program at a fraction of the cost – I did this in the past.

Another issue with Clinton’s data driven campaign was a program known as Ada. This complex, omnipotent algorithm was supposed to be Clinton’s saving grace. Her campaign was run in such a manner deeply dependent on this program.

Considering the information on the ground was grotesquely inaccurate, could we truly rely on an algorithm? Likely not. My best estimate was the algorithm wasn’t completely at fault, but was so dependent on erroneous information, we couldn’t capitalize on our expansive ground game. Garbage in and garbage out as they say.

The Democratic Party owes all of the people who put hard work into the Clinton campaign an apology for its arrogance. I still believe in Mrs. Clinton, but the Democratic Party has to rectify issues such as its abysmal voter database. Admittedly, the Clinton campaign didn’t have as an inspiring message such as then Presidential candidate Obama in 2008, and 2012.  Even so, people like me were hoping advanced technology would save the day; on Nov. 8, reality set in.  

Matt Fecteau of Pawtucket, Rhode Island was a Democratic congressional candidate in 2014. He is a former White House national security intern and Iraq war veteran.


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