What happened to Barack Obama's once vaunted political machine? The outfit that put upwards of 8 million volunteers on the street in 2008 — known as Organizing for America — is a ghost of its former self. Its staff has shrunk from 6,000 to 300, and its donors are depressed: receipts are a fraction of what they were in 2008. Virtually no one in politics believes it will turn many contests this fall. "There's no chance that OFA is going to have the slightest impact on the midterms," says Charlie Cook, who tracks congressional races.
Neglect is to blame. After Obama was elected, his political aides ignored the army he had created until it eventually disappeared. No one was in charge; decisions were often deferred but rarely made. By the time they realized they needed more troops, says longtime consultant Joe Trippi, "their supporters had taken a vacation from politics."
DNC communications director Brad Woodhouse pushes back:
This is a ridiculous bit of reporting that didn't deserve the five graphs it was given. Who in the world would think it is appropriate to compare the scale of effort that takes place in a presidential election year with that of a midterm — it'd be like comparing an ant to elephant and criticizing the ant for not measuring up in size and stature. The fact is, the $50 million vote 2010 plan, which includes thousands of volunteers and hundreds of paid staff in all 50 states, concentrated in key states and districts, is the largest and most robust investment of resources in terms of money, personnel and volunteers for a midterm election in the history of the DNC. If anything, the effort we have undertaken here should be compared to previous midterm efforts of the party and not to a presidential election in which the two candidates raised and spent more than $1 billion.In addition, the writer offers nothing to back up the assertion that we allowed OFA to languish after the election, which is a flat out misstatement of the facts. Within a matter of days after President Obama was sworn in, OFA was organizing thousands of events in support of the Recovery Act — hardly something that would have occurred if we had not been paying close attention to our supporters. Incidentally, since OFA launched in its present form, we have added 2.6 million people to the e-mail list and 5.1 million people have taken action through OFA — all of this before the midterm elections even have gotten into fool swing (sic). These are figures provided to the writer but which were not used because they did not fit the premise of the story she was writing.