Saturday, May 24, 2008

Obama's political team out-organized Clinton

WASHINGTON (AP) Call them Kool-Aid drinkers. Political romantics. Starry-eyed dreamers.

But as the marathon Democratic primary campaign nears an end, Barack Obama's staff is on the verge of vindicating its belief that the eloquent black freshman senator from Illinois was a unique candidate who could win the Democratic nomination in one of the biggest upsets in presidential politics.

The band of Obama loyalists who imagined that could happen have stunned even themselves with their success against Hillary Rodham Clinton, who appeared to have wrapped up the nomination last year, before any votes were cast. Now, they face a new challenge with the impending nomination and campaign against Republican John McCain.

If they succeed, many team members could be helping run the country eight months from now. Presidents often appoint campaign advisers to top administration jobs.

The team was led by calm and focused campaign manager David Plouffe; their strategy was inspired by the candidate's experience as a community organizer. They built a campaign designed to accomplish what other political sensations like Gary Hart and Howard Dean failed to do — turn the energy and excitement of the Obama phenomenon into long-term results.

"I think everyone knew realistically that he was starting as an underdog," said longtime friend and adviser Valerie Jarrett. "But I don't think he would have started down this path with a team that didn't think he would win. It was going to be an uphill battle, but in the end I think we were all confident that it could be done and that he could do it."

Matching Obama's organizing background, the team has roots in conducting on-the-ground congressional campaigns across the country. Many top aides were groomed by former House Democratic leader Dick Gephardt and former Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle instead of by the Clinton wing of the party. Clinton's team was built with Washington and New York operatives.

From its experience in congressional races, the Obama team understood firsthand the extent of Clinton fatigue in the heartland and the lesson of the 2006 midterm elections: America wants change.

Obama's chief directive for hiring the more than 700 staff members who eventually came to work for him was: No Drama Allowed. Obama's even demeanor is reflected in the advisers closest to him. While Clinton's campaign divided into conflicting power centers whose emotional disputes leaked publicly, any fights in the Obama campaign were kept in the family................

No comments: