This is a sometimes 'cheesey' blog about British and American politics and anything else which tickles my fancy!

Saturday, 28 June 2008

Obama's Men, Obama's Strategy

Who are Obama's men?

So far, little attention has been paid to the political strategists responsible for Obama's victory over Clinton and his continuing appeal amongst voters.

The men closest to Barack Obama are political insiders who have spent a lifetime getting Democrats elected. One of them was even a close friend of Hillary Clinton. They are David Axelrod, David Plouffe and Steve Hildebrand. Every week, like millions of other Obama supporters, I receive an email from at least one of them. This week David Plouffe, Obama's Campaign Manager, emailed outlining the strategy for winning.

One of the things I love about the Obama campaign is that it treats voters like adults. Plouffe shared polling information and was explicit about the strategy for defeating McCain. The trust in sharing information makes supporters feel included - like they have a stake in the campaign - and this can only be a good thing for generating enthusiasm and organisation.

So what is the strategy?

Well, the Obama campaign asked voters in a poll, "Are you enthusiastic about the election?" 61% of Democrats said they were, while 35% of Republicans answered positively. Democrats feel the elections is theirs to lose.The campaign surely has to be about tapping into this enthusiasm and doing what is most important - getting out the vote.

Obama's message of change, his generational appeal and his coalition of African-Americans, the young and the educated middle-classes provides a bedrock of support which he must build on. The campaign can not be complacent.

As Plouffe reminded me, in 2004 Kerry won 253 election college votes. The magic number is 270. Obama must hold on to the states Kerry won and further his appeal. So what do Obama's men intend to do? There are four things:

1. Hold on the the states Kerry won and win Ohio.

2. Win the West. Obama has a real chance of picking up the extra electoral college votes by campaigning in states like Montana, Colorado and North Dakota where he is popular. The fact that these states are in play is a good sign. The Obama team will campaign aggressively in them.

3. Get organised. The Obama campaign has 1 million volunteers already signed up. They are a huge resource who can build up voter registration, make telephone calls and knock on doors. Grassroots organisation will place the Democrats in a much stronger position than the Republicans.

4. Fundraise. The McCain campaign has access to a $50 million Republican slush fund. The Obama campaign has promised not take money from lobbyists or Political Action Committees. Instead, it has 1.7 million donors from the primary campaign who have made, on average, donations of $100 dollars. The Obama campaign must tap into this donor database again if McCain is to be defeated.

This week, the campaign made a breakthrough in party unity with the rally in New Hampshire with Hillary Clinton. But, there is a long way to go.

I think that the main points of Plouffe's strategy are essentially sound. As they showed in the primary campaign, the Obama team are not political novices. They have determination, grit and are the best political strategists operating at the moment. If they manage to pull it off, not only will it to transform America, but it will transform the way politics is carried out too.

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