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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Why Obama Won

Marc Ambiner has a great list up of reasons why Obama won:

1. Practice what you preach. The preach: the neighborhood precinct captains are the linchpins of the ground effort. The practice: let them do the job. Staff didn't talk to voters. They were, in fact, two steps removed from voters. Responsibility was vested in tens of thousands of precinct captains and volunteer leaders; they identified volunteers, supervised canvasses, and reported back to field offices. The Obama campaign had ways of verifying the data that was come in, but in most cases it was accurate; the supervolunteers and precinct captains were empowered and incentivized to do their jobs, and they did them. (Note: the Bush-Cheney 2004 campaign used this same model, as did the McCain-Palin '08 model, but the big difference was...)

2. Scale / Force Of Numbers: No matter how you measure this election, the Obama campaign was able to do so much because it had so much. What ifs abound. What if they were limited to the federal match? What if they weren't able to raise as much money? What if they didn't spend more than $150 million on field? Can this possibly be replicated? Can the Democrats ever again have hundreds of paid staff in states like Ohio weeks before election day? Can they ever find two million active volunteers?

3. Win Bigger / Lose Smaller. That was an Obama field mantra. The campaign opened up a field office in Warren Co., Ohio, where George W. Bush won by nearly 50 points in 2004. Well, Obama lost Warren County... but by 37 points. That's a big improvement. Losing by smaller margins in those smaller counties is how Barack Obama won Ohio. (His margin in Cuyahoga County: 243,000; Kerry's was 221,000...not a big enough difference.)

4. African Americans and the early vote. Problem: black voters habitually, historically distrusted in-person early voting. The solution: fix the problem. Contact black voters early and often about early voting. Spend money to habituate this demographic to early voting.

5. Finding new voters; this one's obvious, but the campaign spent its entire summer finding out who wasn't registered and registering them, and then compiling reams of data about these voters in order to figure out how to target them.

6. Technology (and Google): beyond the obvious, beyond MyBarackObama.com, it was the advances in technology that increased the efficiency of Democratic turnout efforts. For example: the campaign's VoteBuilder software had a turf-cutting tool. Look at a map. Draw a polygon around a neighborhood. And, boom: you could instantly print a "walk list" of voters. This year's version was based on Google Maps which made it infinitely easier to use than the previous versions...

7. Catalist. More on that in my next post, but this Democratic data consortium was a major behind-the-scenes force... UPDATE: Upon further review, I think the DNC's VoteBuilder program also deserves lots of credit, too. More later.