The Reselling of the President

Richard Wolffe’s account of the 2012 election [“The Message: The Reselling of President Obama”] is a fine behind-the-scenes campaign-trail book that makes me wonder about the future of behind-the-scenes campaign-trail books. …

Yet “The Message” is actually most interesting when Wolffe descends from the executive suite to the “boiler room,” where Obama’s data gurus and his advertising chief, Jim Margolis, constructed the campaign’s digital political machine. By merging polling, responses collected by field volunteers and commercial data, they could make fine-grained predictions about individual voters’ likelihood of choosing Obama, together with what television shows they watched. The information allowed Obama’s team to hunt efficiently for bargain advertising rates. (Many undecided voters, it turned out, watched the Syfy channel at 3 in the morning.) That precision upended one of the great assumptions about 2012: despite being outspent, Obama and his allies actually got more advertisements on the air in many critical markets than their opponents did. [cont.]

Nicholas Confessore, New York Times