Gov. Mitt Romney, the 2012 GOP candidate and former Bain & Company executive, made an unprecedented move to rebuke 2016 GOP front-runner Mr. Donald Trump last week. The very public and personal rebuke set of shock waves in not only the GOP primary season but also rippled through news media and general conversations. Motivations aside (you can read that in numerous political blogs), what Gov. Romney did in suggesting a split in delegate count leading into the Cleveland GOP primary was to invoke painful lessons in analytics that caught Team Romney by surprise in 2012, which he would prefer to not repeat itself this election cycle.
In the late stages of the 2012 election, Team Romney spent many weeks and precious campaign dollars in states like Pennsylvania where the campaigned believed there was still a chance and pathway to the White House. Despite criticisms this week by Mr. Trump’s campaign that Gov. Romney “went on vacation” the last month of the election cycle, the truth is far from that. Team Romney did not have the proper analytics and modeling to determine where to place the right bets the last weeks of the campaign (Virginia, Ohio, Florida, Colorado) and instead attempted to leverage emotions and outlying probabilities based on unscientific exit polls. Meanwhile Team Obama had most of the pathway to the White House calculated using advanced predictive analytics supported by Amazon Web Services. The President essentially watched Team Romney (quietly) spend its limted precious resources in places where it would in the end make little difference and focus on late campaign stage positioning which led to Pres. Obama’s second term victory.
While watching from the sidelines in 2016, Gov. Romney’s insertion of political comment into the primary in a way is to right the mistakes made in his previous run in 2012. Current pathways for Mr. Trump to achieve the needed delegate count in advance of the Cleveland GOP Convention get murky when each of the three remaining candidates divide up a number of critical states into their own delegate counts. In this model, Gov. Kasich and Sen. Rubio need to secure a number of states – including their own in Ohio and Florida, respectively – with Sen. Cruz continuing to pick off the heartland states, in order to block a quick pathway to the GOP nomination for Mr. Trump. The situation is so much clearer today based on advances in algorithms and the belief in the accuracy of predictive analytics, that few disputed Gov. Romney’s initial high level approach model, which many affiliate news organizations have analyzed and determined to be sound.
Regardles of the outcome of the 2016 GOP primary season, one thing is clear. Gov. Romney learned a very valuable lesson in the accuracy of predictive analytics four years ago. And that memory is shaping his influence of the current primary season.