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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Obama Campaign Boots Up

As Michael Scherer reports in Time, the 2012 Obama campaign resembles the 2008 organization, with many of the same faces and the same techniques:

But if you want to find out why the President has set up shop in a Chicago skyscraper 18 months before Election Day, you need only peek into the office of Jeremy Bird, 32, the campaign's field director, at the far end of the room. He pulls a name from a database on his laptop, picks up his phone and dials in the hope of reminding one more person of the 2008 magic. "I just wanted to call, and first I wanted to thank you," Bird says when a volunteer from Obama's first presidential campaign answers in North Carolina. The computer screen notes that this guy hasn't done much in recent years, so Bird asks for his thoughts about 2012. "You are listed as a superstar 2008 volunteer," Bird continues. "What do we need to do to get you back involved?" (See pictures of an artist's view of the 2008 presidential campaign.)

In Obamaworld parlance, this is a "one-on-one," a cold call that aides hope will form the foundation for next year's re-election effort. This summer, the Obama campaign expects to arrange hundreds of thousands of these individual contacts, over the phone or in person, with just about everyone who gave his or her time back when Obama was an upstart outsider three years ago. To accomplish the massive task, the campaign is launching a replay of a program started in 2008 called Summer Organizers, in which more than 1,500 volunteers have committed to work 20- or 40-hour weeks through the summer. In the first week of June, the Obama campaign and the Democratic National Committee will hold 42 two-day training sessions in 40 states.

But some things are different:

Some on the left have argued that the President dropped the ball by failing to keep his network of supporters engaged and by following his transformational campaign with a transactional governing style. "Fighting to make something happen is different than sitting back and trying to mediate something," says Marshall Ganz, a supporter turned critic of Obama, who teaches at Harvard. "People can't organize around that."

That critique gets a rise out of Obama's senior staff. "Those are the types of things that people with lifetime tenure like to say," remarks Axelrod. "What we have tried to do is effect change in the real world, in a difficult environment." Still, Obama's inner circle understands that the grass roots need rejuvenating. "Everything in 2008 was in service of the hand on the door knocker," says Joe Rospars, who will reprise his 2008 role as the campaign's top digital strategist. "That's the one thing that will be exactly the same." (See the 10 elections that changed America.)

The campaign, along with the DNC, has also been testing new strategies and technologies, like iPads that can play videos for voters during neighborhood canvasses or mobile applications for reporting data about voter contacts and responses. For each swing state, number crunchers have developed individually tailored recipes, with mixes of voter registration, base mobilization and persuasion, that will be required to win. And they can mine a Facebook community of nearly 21 million supporters, plus 8 million Twitter followers. "Obviously the technology is different" than it was in 2008, adds Plouffe. "The data is going to be much richer this time." (See "In a Relationship or Just Friends? Facebook Cozies Up to Obama and Congress.")

Michael Shear writes at The New York Times:
As they gear up for a tough re-election battle, senior officials at the White House want to make sure President Obama is associated with one word: tough.

Mr. Obama has been making the case since he took office that his administration has had to make tough calls on the economy, the auto industry and the war in Afghanistan. His decision to launch the Pakistani raid that killed Osama bin Laden clearly helps officials make the case.

Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. became the latest administration official to deliver the message at a fund-raiser in New Hampshire on Wednesday night.

“We have a leader with the backbone of a ramrod,” Mr. Biden said in Nashua. He added that because of the Bin Laden raid, the real Mr. Obama “is coming into focus.”
Meanwhile, over at the White House, Sam Stein reports at The Huffington Post, communications tactics are evolving:

The Obama administration has created and staffed a new position tucked inside their communications shop for helping coordinate rapid response to unfavorable stories and fostering and improving relations with the progressive online community.

"This week, Jesse Lee will move from the new media department into a role in the communications department as Director of Progressive Media & Online Response," read an internal memo from Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer, provided to The Huffington Post. "For the last two years, Jesse has often worn two hats working in new media and serving as the White House's liaison with the progressive media and online community. Starting this week, Jesse will take on the second role full time working on outreach, strategy and response."