While his critics have been eager to dismiss the Texas Governor as anti-science, the The New York Times takes a look at an upcoming electronic book, "Rick Perry and His Eggheads: Inside the Brainiest Political Operation in America." The book's author shows Perry's approach to politics is at once rigorously scientific and unconventional:
No candidate has ever presided over a political operation so skeptical about the effectiveness of basic campaign tools and so committed to using social-science methods to rigorously test them.
As the 2006 election season approached, the governor’s top strategist, Dave Carney, invited four political scientists into Perry’s war room and asked them to impose experimental controls on any aspect of the campaign budget that they could randomize and measure. Over the course of that year, the eggheads, as they were known within the campaign, ran experiments testing the effectiveness of all the things that political consultants do reflexively and we take for granted: candidate appearances, TV ads, robocalls, direct mail. These were basically the political world’s version of randomized drug trials, which had been used by academics but never from within a large-scale partisan campaign.
The findings from those 2006 tests dramatically changed how Carney prioritized the candidate’s time and the campaign’s money when Perry sought re-election again in 2010 and will inform the way he runs for president now.
The article goes on to discuss the differences between Perry's campaign approach and Obama's. While Obama's chief strategist David Plouffe is know for his technical approach to politics, the Obama campaign may not be as rigorously empirical as Perry's operation. In any event, it sounds like Perry's opponents will underestimate his campaign machine at their peril.