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Book Review: The Victory Lab (by Sasha Issenberg)

The tag line on the book reads: "The Secret Science of Winning Campaigns".  Having just completed the book, I am struck by the realization that this may be a secret and the flabbergasted suprise that it is! 
 
In a nutshell, Sasha highlights the philosophical differences between campaigns based on "gut, instinct, and experience" with those based on metrics, social / behaviorial analysis, and experimentation.  He provides political background for tactics from as far back as the early 1900s.  These tactics, used sparingly in earlier campaigns, began coming to their own as the power of computers made it possible for campaigns to become better stewards and utilizers of data.  Issenberg leads the reader along the path that ultimately leads to the Obama campaign's culmination of their use.  Using these techniques, one sees how Obama's team developed insight and predictive insight into two of the most basic questions of any campaign:

  • How do I best identify my supporters?
  • How do I get them to vote?

 
I have already shared my opinion that it would not be effective for Republicans to attempt cloning of the "Obama - Chicago model".  For one, that model is designed and tested for a Democratic campaign (and primarily one with an African-American atop the ticket).  That would be similar to a mid-to-high priced dine-in eatery trying to copy a successful marketing campaign for Domino's Pizza.  It ignores the fact that the target market and offering to them is different.  Also, even if simply cloning the model would work, copying what Democrats are doing now ignores the reality that they are continuing to develop their models and tactics.  Republicans are not targeting a stationary objective; they need to plot an intercept course with a still-advancing opponent. 
 
Interestingly, reading Issenberg's book actually highlighted the reality that Obama and Democrats are beatable!  There are inherent weaknesses built into the very nature of their models & strategies.  Likewise, a Results-Driven, Metrics-Based campaign could begin to reorient the political landscape and I content that it could do it rather quickly.  Combined as a part of a focused strategy of growing the brand, campaigns like this could serve to advance the strongly-held American ideals of freedom and opportunity. 
 
Much like Mel Gibson in The Patriot, I finished the book feeling that I had been "in the mind of a genius" (or, at least, someone who wrote about them).  However, I saw the exact same weakness at the underpinnings of Obama and his organization.  While I, like John, would prefer "an Idiot", Pride will do.  
 
I'd love to hear your comments if you have read the book.  Do you have a favorite observation?  
 
If you haven't yet read the book, I would definitely recommend it.  If you are someone involved in campaigns, interested in them, or planning to engage in one, this is a must read!