Obama Has Learned From Failure of Dean Campaign in Iowa

Yesterday I looked at how John Edwards’ campaign which extends to the rural areas of Iowa leaves him with the possibility of winning in the state. This does not mean that the other candidates are leaving the state wide open for him. I don’t think that anyone would doubt that Clinton is organizing a full scale campaign, and Obama is also working to avoid suffering the same fate as Howard Dean by making his campaign more than an internet movement:

But aides said Obama’s intensive ground operation also fits the strategy of trying to leverage the enthusiasm he has generated among his core supporters. With Obama’s appeal to independents, he also could benefit from expanding the universe of caucus and primary voters beyond the most partisan Democrats. The campaign would especially like to increase participation among historically low-turnout young and minority voters, from whom Obama enjoys strong support.

In Iowa, where anyone who will be 18 by the November 2008 election is eligible for the caucuses, the campaign has set up “Barack Stars” chapters at high schools around the state. The campaign is collecting cell phone numbers and e-mail addresses of supporters in colleges so they can be reached during the run-up to caucus night, which is likely to come while colleges still are on holiday break.

Any scenario for Obama winning the Democratic nomination depends heavily on his performance in Iowa. Michelle Obama, the candidate’s wife, recently said that unless he wins Iowa, the White House bid is no more than “a dream.” And even campaign advisers wary of setting high expectations acknowledge Obama must at least “come close” in Iowa.

Iowa is where the campaign phenomenon of 2004, Howard Dean and the Internet-based movement of orange-hatted “Deaniacs” who flooded into the state during the weeks before the caucuses, collapsed in spectacular defeat. The organizational shortcomings that contributed to Dean’s loss have served as a lesson in what not to do for the Obama campaign.

“There’s been a lot of talk of Barack Obama campaigning as a movement, but it’s also a very organized effort,” said Mitch Stewart, Obama’s Iowa caucus director.

Every morning, Stewart, a lanky, 6-foot-4 South Dakota native, pores over an Excel spreadsheet on his laptop computer, scrolling through daily updates. How many supporters has the campaign identified? How many voters contacted? How many precinct captains recruited? How many trained for caucus night?

The numbers are tabulated county by county, precinct by precinct, field organizer by field organizer, set against goals for each.

“If, for whatever reason, one organizer is struggling, we can get someone in there to help,” Stewart explained.

On a recent evening at the campaign’s Des Moines headquarters, about 50 people gathered in a corner for a training session for caucus precinct captains. A campaign staffer diagramed the layout of a typical caucus room, using a blue marker to draw circles and X’s on white butcher paper.

In the Iowa caucuses, which have none of the electioneering restrictions common to polling places, tricks of the trade include positioning friendly greeters at the front of the room to slap stickers on supporters and guide them to the corner of the room where the candidate’s followers will be counted; distributing baked treats to keep them there; and deploying “corralers” at the edge of the camp to dissuade waverers from wandering.

At Obama headquarters recently, volunteers and paid campaign staffers worked phone banks set up on folding tables.

Laptop computer screens displayed information on voters as they were called. For Obama supporters, the screens often showed 10 or more lines, each indicating a separate attempt to reach them. Each time a campaign worker speaks to a voter, he or she is supposed to enter a fresh reading of the voter’s inclinations.

Among the mistakes of the Dean campaign that the Obama operation is determined not to repeat is an unrealistic count of supporters. The Obama camp’s policy is to try to check in with each supporter once every three weeks.

And that’s not the only way the campaign is testing its operation. It is planning to host precinct-level house parties for supporters across the state, all on the same evening, a month before the caucuses—essentially a dry run for the big night.

As we saw in 2004, advanced polls out of Iowa mean very little and the candidate with the strongest ground game can greatly surpass expectations.

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2 Comments

  1. 1
    mcthorogood says:

    Oh my God!

    Paris – The U.S. election process is heating up, and the mud is spreading! Hillary Rodham Clinton, the leading Democratic candidate for U.S. President, is being sued in the state of California in what may be the largest election fraud in U.S. history. All news of this case has been effectively censored in the U.S. mainstream media.

    Hillary may have violated the law by not reporting large contributions to her successful 2000 campaign for the New York Senate. Mr. Peter F. Paul claims that his contributions were omitted from the public reports filed with the Federal Election Commission, and Hillary denies all knowledge of these contributions. See the latest ruling in Paul vs. Clinton.

    Hillary even denies knowing Mr. Paul, who made the contributions to her 2000 Senate campaign. A video produced by the Equal Justice Foundation of America has been viewed more than 650,000 times. A case such as this would normally end any politician’s career in the United States, but, just like cream, corruption always rises to the top.

  2. 2
    Ryan says:

    The extent of Mr. Obama’s online influence cannot be ignored. The game has also changed since 2004 when Dean fell off his high horse, people are much more engaged online. Meetup was only starting when Dean ran, myspace and facebook had maybe 5% the reach they do now. Check out this site, it has some nice numbers in the press release section:

    http://www.spartaninternet.com/2008/

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