Nums: Is predictive analytics winning battles, not wars?

Peggy Noonan has a piece in the WSJ today that I almost skipped.

You know, another  “Is Obama a Lame Duck?” piece.

Buried in the column was a riff about predictive analytics that caught my eye.


It pointed out one of the downsides of  predictive analytics … the craft  of crunching big data bases to ID people, their behaviors and their hot buttons.

Here’s what Noonan had to say …


In the days after the 2012 election the Democrats bragged about their technological genius and how it turned the election.

They told the world about what they’d done—the data mining, the social networking, that allowed them to zero in on Mrs. Humperdink in Ward 5 and get her to the polls.

It was quite impressive and changed national politics forever.

In 2008 Mr. Obama won by 9.5 million votes. Four years later, with all the whizbang and money, he won by less than five million.

When people talk about 2012 they don’t say the president won because the American people endorsed his wonderful leadership.

They say he won because his team outcomputerized the laggard Republicans.

This has left him and his people looking more like cold technocrats who know how to campaign than leaders who know how to govern.

And it has diminished claims of a popular mandate.

The president’s position would be stronger now if more people believed he had one.


Predictive analytics certainly won the battle.

Noonan raises an interesting question: did it win the war?

I think there’s a broader message in there for us number crunchers.

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