Mercury Retrograde and Romney’s Project Orca
In the aftermath of the election, many astrologers were left asking themselves why the Mercury retrograde station on Election Day didn’t coincide with more noticeable delays in the outcome of the election itself.
As more news and stories have come out in the past week since the election ended, we have seen some of the ways in which the Mercury retrograde did correlate with significant problems in different parts of the country. It turns out, though, that the biggest story related to the retrograde station on Election Day would take a little bit longer to come out because it was a private issue that occurred within one of the campaigns.
Many astrologers expected that the retrograde would correlate with delays in the outcome of the election, since this is what happened during the 2000 election when Mercury was also retrograde. However, in focusing on delays, astrologers overlooked or under-emphasized some of the more common traits that are usually associated with Mercury retrograde periods, which are technological snafus and miscommunications.
It turns out that what may have been the most decisive event that the Mercury retrograde station coincided with was a major technological snafu that occurred within the Romney campaign on Election Day, which ultimately may have affected the outcome of the election.
Mercury Retrograde and Technological Snafus
One of the cliches about Mercury retrograde periods is that, because astrologers associate Mercury with technology, the periods in which the planet is retrograde tend to coincide with technological snafus.
This is something that we noted in August in our official writeup about what the Mercury retrograde might mean on Election Day:
Mercury retrograde periods happen about three times a year. They are seen as significant because in astrology the planet Mercury is associated with topics such as communication, speech, writing, technology and calculation. When a planet goes retrograde it is deviating from its course and going contrary to its usual direction, and so symbolically this means that there is something about the topics associated with the planet that have similarly been reversed or gone awry.
Astrologers generally associate Mercury retrograde with things like miscommunication, delays, false starts, technological breakdowns, situations lacking in resolution, uncertainty, and times in which previous actions must be revisited.
Popular astrology writer Jan Spiller focuses on this point in particular in her general writeup on Mercury retrogrades:
Physical arenas that are ruled by Mercury seem to go haywire at this time: computers, telephones, printing, all fields related to transportation or communication are particularly vulnerable to malfunctioning during the Mercury retrograde cycles.
Astrologer Celeste Teal provides a similar account in her article on Mercury retrograde:
While Mercury is retrograde, delays are to be expected. The usual channels of communication become scrambled, devices used for communication are faulty, contacts one needs to make are impossible, etc. Mercury’s retrograde periods have more effects as we become more sophisticated in our communications technology.
Astrologer Stephanie Gailing mentioned technological issues as a potential source for difficulties in her article titled How Mercury Retrograde Will Affect the Election on Astrology.com:
Miscommunications, lost information and technology breakdowns are just some of the commonplace occurrences during this three-week time period.
So, the general idea is that there are technological breakdowns during this time, especially with communications technology, and this is actually the reason why in many cases the entire Mercury retrograde period becomes associated with delays.
The Romney Campaign’s Secret Weapon: Project Orca
In the last week of the election, stories started to circulate about a super-secret program that the Romney campaign had designed in order to coordinate their get-out-the-vote efforts on Election Day. The codename of the program was Project Orca.
Project Orca was essentially a smartphone application that was supposed to link together 34,000 Romney campaign volunteers, allowing them to send real-time reports from polling stations around the country, so that the campaign could identify precincts with low voter turnout and then focus more resources on getting people to the polls in those areas.
This is how the Romney campaign described the project in a memo that went out prior to Election Day according to ABC News:
Project ORCA is a massive undertaking – the Republican Party’s newest, unprecedented and most technologically advanced plan to win the 2012 presidential election .. It is estimated that Project ORCA will decipher 18 to 23 million people have voted by the time all voting has concluded. This massive “sample size” not only ensure the most accurate ballot projections ever, but it will also ensure hyper-accuracy of our supporter targeting as we work to turn them out to the polls.
The central hub where the project was coordinated and all reports were sent to on Election Day was a makeshift command center that had been set up on the floor of the Boston Garden sports arena, with a task force of 800 volunteers on laptops.
The picture of the headquarters to the right was taken by Josiah Daniel Ryan and posted to Twitter on Election Day.
The Obama campaign had successfully used a similar program in their get-out-the-vote efforts in 2008, calling it Project Narwhal, and so the Romney campaign sought to replicate and surpass that model. The codename “Orca” was chosen by the Romney campaign purportedly because the orca whale is the only known natural predator of the narwhal whale.
By the last week of the election the Romney campaign revealed the existence of Orca. On Monday November 5, Romney Communications Director Gail Gitcho did an interview with PBS News in which she excitedly talked about Orca and how important it would be for the campaign’s ground game on Election Day.
On October 31 the Romney campaign sent the following video out to supporters who would be volunteering with the Orca project task force:
The Failure of Project Orca
In the past week after the election ended stories have started to come out about Project Orca running into serious technical issues on Election Day, resulting in what one project volunteer characterized as an “unmitigated disaster”.
The most extensive account of the issues with Project Orca comes from a Romney volunteer named John Ekdahl, who wrote an article on November 8 titled The Unmitigated Disaster Known As Project ORCA.
Ekdahl is a web developer from Florida who was a part of the Project Orca task force on Election Day. It is really worth reading his entire account in order to understand the full scope of the issues surrounding Orca, although I will try to summarize some of his main points below:
- Conference calls that were meant to train volunteers prior to Election Day were not helpful, and questions about potential issues were brushed aside.
- There was confusion over an instruction packet that was emailed to volunteers at the last minute, the night before Election Day, with some volunteers receiving no packet at all.
- The organizers of the project didn’t tell volunteers that they needed a poll watcher certificate, causing many of them to be turned away from the polls. This was partially due to a typo in the instruction packet that was sent out as a PDF the night before.
- The Romney campaign had told the volunteers that Orca was a smartphone “app”, but it was actually a website, and this created confusion when volunteers tried to download the app from the standard locations such as Android Market or iTunes, because it wasn’t available there.
- The Orca website was not turned on until 6 AM on Election Day, and thus volunteers didn’t have any time to familiarize themselves with how to use it on their smartphones until that day.
- The Orca program was located on a secure https web address, but the developers forgot to redirect the normal http address to the secure one, which meant that when most people went to the standard http address in order to access the program all they got was a blank page, and thus they thought that the system was down.
- Orca was never beta tested or checked for functionality in the environment that it would be operating in prior to November 6, but instead it went live for the first time in the Boston Garden arena on Election Day.
- The development of the program was rushed, and took place in a very short 7 month time span after the Republican primaries concluded.
- The entire system crashed sporadically throughout the day, causing confusion in the Romney campaign because they didn’t know which areas of the country had low voter turnout, and so they had to rely on reports from the media in order to direct their last minute get-out-the-vote efforts. In most of the reports the Romney campaign was described as “flying blind” on Election Day due to the failure of the system and the subsequent lack of reports from the field.
- At one point the system went down for a full 90 minutes when the internet connection at the command center was cut off. The Romney campaign initially thought that this was due to a cyber attack, but it later turned out that their internet service provider Comcast had cut their connection off, apparently because the company hadn’t been notified how much data would be going in and out of the Boston Garden arena that day.
- Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of volunteers were unable to use the system because the usernames and passwords they had been assigned were wrong, and the password reset tool did not work.
- By 6:00 PM the campaign realized that every volunteer in Colorado and North Carolina had been issued the wrong personal identification number in order to access the system, and efforts to rectify the mistake after that point were only partially successful.
Reports by Romney volunteers from all around the country complaining about the issues with Orca and corroborating many of the points above have been collected together in an article on the website Twitchy titled Did Romney campaign’s Project Orca sink GOP turnout? Users claim an ‘epic fiasco’.
The catastrophic failure of Project Orca on Election Day has led a number of commentators to wonder whether the outcome of the election would have been different if the money and manpower diverted to the project had been used more wisely.
Ekdahl emphasizes this point with a statement towards the end of his account:
So, the end result was that 30,000+ of the most active and fired-up volunteers were wandering around confused and frustrated when they could have been doing anything else to help. Like driving people to the polls, phone-banking, walking door-to-door, etc. We lost by fairly small margins in Florida, Virginia, Ohio and Colorado. If this had worked could it have closed the gap? I sure hope not for my sanity’s sake.
Joel B. Pollak, the editor-in-chief of the conservative news website Brietbart.com, concluded his piece on Orca by saying that there was
…massive suppression of the Republican vote [on Election Day] –by the Romney campaign [itself], through the diversion of nearly 40,000 volunteers to a failing computer program.
Why Did the Mercury Retrograde Affect Romney?
One of the obvious questions here from an astrological perspective is why did the Mercury retrograde station on Election Day affect the Romney campaign in particular, rather than the Obama campaign?
That the Mercury retrograde would affect Romney more than Obama was actually an observation that the authors of The Political Astrology Blog made back in April when we issued our official prediction, and we also noted it in our article in August on what the Mercury retrograde would mean for the 2012 election:
One of the things that came up during the course of our research for The Political Astrology Blog’s official prediction for the presidential election this year is that this Mercury retrograde seems to be specifically tied into Mitt Romney’s chart.
One of the reasons for this is that Romney was born with Gemini rising and Mercury retrograde, and thus he has a retrograde Mercury as the ruler of his ascendant.
More importantly though, is the fact that Mercury played a dominant role in the inception chart for the launch of Romney’s presidential campaign back in 2011.
As we reported a year and a half ago, Mitt Romney officially announced the launch of his 2012 presidential campaign on June 2, 2011, at 1:16 PM in Stratham, New Hampshire.
Here is the chart for the launch of the campaign:
The chart has Virgo rising, with a Gemini Midheaven, and the Sun and Moon in Gemini, thus making Mercury the primary planet ruling the chart.
What happened here, then, is that Romney launched his campaign at a moment in which Mercury was the most dominant planet, and then on Election Day when Mercury stationed retrograde, the problems associated with that transit became focused on his campaign personally.
I think that this helps to explain how surprised those within the Romney campaign reportedly were when he lost the election that day. Romney himself purportedly hadn’t even written a concession speech ahead of time, in the event that he lost.
One of the reasons for this surprise may have been that the Romney campaign was blindsided by a series of technological snafus that crippled their ground game on Election Day — the type of technological disaster that astrologers who pay attention to Mercury retrograde periods are all too familiar with.