President Barack Obama's campaign staff ran a decisively negative campaign, creating an advantage early on for the president with a distortion of Gov. Mitt Romney's tenure at Bain Capital and a characterization of his challenger as a vile individual whose only goal was to further enrich those who were already wealthy at the expense of hard working, middle class Americans.
It is within this context that what was once a campaign of hope and change descended into an unprecedented highly coordinated series of assaults that would paint the GOP presidential candidate as a cheat, a felon, and even a murderer.
Using television advertising artillery, initial strikes against Gov. Romney first began in the summer of 2012. In what is now looked upon as a pivotal error, the Romney campaign made the decision not to counter the fiercely negative ads, choosing instead to try and marshal resources for the post-Labor Day period.
Romney's consultants were relying on the conventional wisdom that the electorate does not focus on the presidential campaign until the autumn arrives. However, what was about to unfold would be anything but conventional.
The extensive infrastructure that the 2008 Obama campaign had previously constructed was considerably expanded, with a pinpoint focus on the swing state turnout of probable Obama voters, i.e., Hispanics, women, younger voters, and African-Americans.
Lists of voter contacts and compilations of social media information already in the Obama campaign's possession underwent a strengthening process through use of something known as political "data mining." Data mining is routinely used by government and by industry in an effort to extract patterns embedded in large information sources. Cutting edge technology is employed, sometimes including the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning.
The coordinated political endeavor resulted in an augmentation of the warehouse of data that the Democratic effort had already assembled.
The Obama campaign utilized experts to hone in on the most efficient ways to motivate constituencies to engage in the voting process. Obama's election effort brought onboard its digital campaign technological professionals, rather than political ones, a decision that came to fruition in part because of a culture that had already been created by its Internet savvy staffers and supporters, including those who had previously participated in the pre-meltdown Howard Dean campaign of 2004.
A key portion of the newly acquired data had come from cable television companies. The information, which actually specified the programs that households were actively watching, was used to determine with greater precision than ever before the preferences and inclinations of the campaign's advertising targets. Analysis of the television data provided profiles of potential voters, and the turnout effort was able to be managed on an address-by-address basis.
The profile data were supplied electronically to staffers on the ground, and as a result campaign workers knew exactly which doors to knock upon, which residences to send mailers to, and which techniques to employ to facilitate the greatest turnout.
The profile data also helped advertising dollars arrive at destinations where the greatest benefits would be reaped. For example, a major advertising buy was conducted to have advertisements run during the airing of the CBS sitcom "2 Broke Girls," presumably because a significant proportion of female viewers that fit the high-probability Obama voter profile comprise the audience.
The Obama campaign additionally used time-tested political propaganda in its media advertising campaigns, presenting loaded messages to produce emotional responses, as opposed to rational ones, from its targeted constituencies.
In the end, apparently being able to collectively adopt an "ends justify the means" mentality, the Obama campaign achieved what it desired.