Helping Obama on the ground


by Sunny
21st October, 2008 at 7:24 am    

Hi everyone. After back-packing around India, Nepal and Pakistan – I’m now temporarily in the USA. My aim here is to learn from the Obama campaign’s ground operation. I’m also volunteering for this historic election. Hell, if and when he wins, wouldn’t you want to be here to watch history be made?

To be sure, none of the actual work in political campaigning is very glamorous. It’s repetitive, tiring and long.

First, some background. The Democrats have always been far behind Republicans in mobilising and connecting to their potential voters and supporters. Hence, they have also been far behind in knowing about their voters and connecting to them on the issues that matter to them. Karl Rove built a massive and highly sophisticated database of Republican voters during the Bush years and the Democrats still haven’t caught up.

So now the Democrats have two big concerns: first, registering new Democrat voters and getting to know them better. 8 years of Bush have certainly helped develop Democrat anger and now registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans by about 10% nationally (but since registered Independents are a huge chunk, those are the constituency each party has to win). Two years ago the Democrats started their own electronic voter database to rival Karl Rove’s and they’ve certainly been boosted by the huge enthusiasm generated by Senatory Obama. So part of the job, our job, is to build this database – not only for the coming election but also for future elections.

This is a key point that many commentators haven’t touched upon: even if Obama loses now, the groundwork for this election has been so big and so important that the balance of power has shifted massively towards the Democrats anyway.

The second aim is to ensure these new Democrats get out and vote on election day. So far the signs are looking good. In Nevada for example, a swing state, early voting started Saturday and so far Democrats outnumbered Republicans by 3-1. In Florida, the Obama campaign will spend a huge amount of money getting people to polls on election day and encourage them to early vote because if all registered Democrats vote – he’ll win the state and thus the election.

I’ll write more about my experiences in working on the ground later, right now I just wanted to give a bit of background. Suffice to say, I already know more about the electoral college politics and election rules than most Americans I’ve been speaking too. And they’re bloody impressed I’m here just for the elections. It’s going to be a long 14 days…


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  1. MaidMarian — on 21st October, 2008 at 12:28 pm  

    ’8 years of Bush have certainly helped develop Democrat anger’

    I always worry when I see a sentence like that.

    Take the word, ‘Democrat,’ out of that sentence and you may be a bit closer. In the midst of a campaign it may well be tempting to confuse anger and support but the link between those is tenuous at best. Candidates that live by anger can very easily die by anger. Think New Labour.

    Anger is not political as such – however much the new media, especially talkboards, may suggest it is. A malcontent is a malcontent whoever is in power. There is a world of difference between voting for something (or, in a presidential election, someone) for positive and negative reasons.

    I don’t doubt that Bush’s legacy to his party will be a severe defeat and alienation. But in saying that a candidacy built on anger looks to me rather like a hostage to fortune.

    It took about five years for that anger to be directed back at Blair – it will be interesting to see how Obama handles the governing of the malcontent element, as opposed to the politics it looks to have explioted well.

    Best of luck with it Sunny!

  2. platinum786 — on 21st October, 2008 at 2:50 pm  

    If John McCain had not taken over from Bush, and had his opponent been anyone but Obama, even if it was Obama, he probably would have won this election. This election was an opportunity to make the republican party sane. He was the liberal face of it, he could have pushed the hawks like Rumsfeld etc to insignificance of he was President.

    I still don’t know about the credentials of Obama to lead a country, he just seems to new Labour to me, too much like Cameron and Blair, a lot of flash, I just hope it won’t be all smoke and mirrors like New Labour. Has this guy been around long enough to make the stand when it counts, when in government.

  3. Leon — on 21st October, 2008 at 5:43 pm  

    Great update Sunny, looking forward to reading more of your experiences and reflections on how they run the campaign on the ground.

  4. Angela — on 21st October, 2008 at 5:44 pm  

    Way to go Sunny! I’ve been backing Obama from a safe distance here in London, but you’re fighting the good fight on the frontline. Let us know if you convert any floating voters…

  5. digitalcntrl — on 22nd October, 2008 at 3:14 am  

    ” The Democrats have always been far behind Republicans in mobilising and connecting to their potential voters and supporters.”

    I can’t say for the party as whole but the Obama operation from my experience is very impressive. Extremely well organized and well run as compared to the McCain and Clinton campaigns. They helped turn my state, Virginia, from a Republican to a Democratic leaning state.

    “Karl Rove built a massive and highly sophisticated database of Republican voters during the Bush years and the Democrats still haven’t caught up.”

    Rove’s ideas were revolutionary, brilliant, and frightening all at the same time. His dream of a permanent Republican majority was a nightmare.

    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/video/flv/generic.html?s=frol02p6c&continuous=1

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