Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A Revolution in Political Affairs: Obama's Levee-en-masse

Barack Obama?

On Politik contends that Obama's approach to fundraising and field organisation constitutes a revolution in the practice of political affairs of such magnitude as to be comparable with Napoleon's Revolution In Military Affairs, namely a defining transformation in both the scale and practice of the art and science of politics. 

To analyse this change, let us now consider Napoleon's own revolution and the scale of the Obama revolution. Post-election, we'll consider the broader implications in the long term of the revolution for both policy and politics.

Napeleon's Revolution in Military Affairs
The Napoleonic era saw a Revolution in Military Affairs in which the small scale, professional, often mercenary armies of the cabinet wars period were swept aside before the power of the man Clausewitz immortalized as "the God of War".

Napeloen's invention of the modern army as a mass force of conscripts (the "levee-en-masse") came about because he tapped the passion of the people (the third and most powerful element of Clausewitz's Trinitarian theory of war: Reason (Govt.), Chance/Probability (Army/Commander) and Passion (People)) and so was able to massively escalate the resource pool he could draw from in waging a larger scale of war then had ever previously been seen.

Simply put, Obama has awoke the passions of the people (the electorate) and by so doing has been able to raise more money then the 2004 field combined, establish more field offices with professional paid staffers and recruit more grassroots volunteers into the campaign process then was previously thought even possible. By so doing he has escalated political warfare to a higher level then has ever preciously been achieved.

The scale of the change: more money, more volunteers, more voters

More money
"The most extraordinary development in this year's election may well be the Obama fundraising juggernaut" - Bradley Smith, former Federal Elections Commission chair 

Source: Open Secrets
  • Obama fundraising from small donors: "Obama’s vast base of small donors – 1.7 million was the last public count — carries big clout. To date (July 21, 2008), Obama has reported raising $338 million for his campaign from individuals and 94% of his donations have come in amounts of $200 or less." - Politico
  • Obama fundraising from bundlers (each raising $50,000+): $63mn (estimated at 10-25% of overall Obama fundraising)
  • Per Obama campaign manager David Plouffe: Obama's largest donor groups are retirees and young people.
  • Per Obama campaign manager David Plouffe: Approximately $200mn has come in donations of $200 or less.
More volunteers
Al Giordano of the Field and Sean Quinn of 538 have done yeoman's work in detailing the unfolding Obama revolution in field organising while Zack Exley's 'New Organizers' series is a must-read examination of the operations of the Obama field game. Taken individually, their examples might be dismissed as exceptional stories, taken collectively, they reveal a strategic approach to field organising of unprecedented ambition and accomplishment. Here's the story so far:
On the road: 538's guide to battleground state field ops
  • Minden, NV: "If you want to talk about Republican domination, try this. Not since 1946 has a Democrat been elected to a county office here. George Bush beat John Kerry countywide 15,192 to 8,275, and Kerry lost statewide by 21,500 votes (Bush and Kerry together got approximately 815,000 votes statewide). Another way to put it is that about a third of Bush's 2004 victory margin came from an area contributing less than 3% of the statewide vote. You can see why reducing that margin by even a thousand votes would be a worthwhile investment in Nevada's ground game."
  • Reno, NV: "In just the last year, Washoe County’s R-D voter registration gap has dropped from R +16,000 to R +5,000. The several months on the ground leading up to the January 19 caucus helped. That shift represents a lot of grinding, day-by-day work by organizers and volunteers to canvass and recanvass neighborhoods that can't be crammed at the last minute."
  • Las Vegas, NV: "Democrats have gained over 100,000 registrations in Clark County, which helped net roughly 70,000 statewide in the last year. 30,000 new Democrats registered on caucus day alone. Democrats have 5 field offices in Clark County, 14 offices open in the state as a whole, with 3-5 more planned, 90 paid staff and 75 field organizers."
  • Gallup, NM: "In our personal Gallup poll, it seems clear Barack Obama will exceed the Kerry margin in McKinley, simply because Democrats are working with an unprecedented presence here. Having an office open 2-3 months before a general election versus sweeping in for the final 10 days makes all the difference, especially in a state where early voting by mail needs to be organized well ahead of time."
  • Espalaola, NM: "170,000 registered Hispanic voters didn't vote in the 2004 election, and Hispanics are roughly 40% of the state population here."
  • Albuquerque/Santa Fe, NM: "John McCain and the Republicans are running a workmanlike ground game here. They now have ten offices open, up from five a week ago. Their volunteers often begin calling showing up at 8:30 am to make phone calls. Some call all day. In larger offices they'll fill the twenty-ish seats for a full phone bank."
  • Durango Cortez, CO: "In terms of numbers, there was more going on at the Obama office, which is open 9 to 9 every day of the week. In the twenty minutes we spent at the office, we saw a local woman come in to register and take a form for her daughter. Another 70-something woman returned with her completed phone sheet and took another one home. Two phone bankers made dials. Another man, who volunteers twice a week, had taken upon himself the task of blind-knocking his trailer park and was getting a high contact and success rate."
  • Grand Junction, CO: "Grand Junction, CO (two parts): Let's do a little math. 12 face-to-face contacts is one new voter who would not have otherwise voted that you personally generated. You just doubled your own vote by speaking at the door to twelve voters. Of course, then it comes down to contact rate -- how often is the person home that you're trying to reach. A very low contact rate is probably 10%, and that happens. A very high contact rate can be 50%. Average is in the 25% ballpark. On average, you'd have to knock on 48 doors to generate 12 face-to-face contacts and one additional vote. 48 doors is a pretty standard, approximate walk list. In Glenwood Springs up the road an hour or so, we saw the process repeat. A volunteer named Barclay Lottimer raved about the Obama organizer there, whose program in Garfield County had generated 3,000 knocks the previous weekend and 2,500 knocks so far this weekend when we stopped midday. Garfield had at least 1,000 new Democratic registrants. Summit County has flipped its registration edge from R to D based on the voter reg work spearheaded by Obama's organizers and volunteers."
  • Colorado Springs, CO: "The whiteboard in the Obama office listed different volunteers and their total numbers of registrations earned. 100 gets you a free T-shirt, and most names had earned somewhere between 25 and 80 toward that goal. Robert had 341, not including the 12 new ones he'd returned with moments after we arrived. (He doesn't care about the shirts.) He's lived here 15 years and hasn't seen any Democratic presence like this one. He told us a friend of his had been here 30 years but had never seen a Democratic presidential office in Colorado Springs."
  • Boulder, CO: "John McCain's campaign doesn't have an office in Boulder's blue oasis, whereas Barack Obama is willing to put his organizers all over deep red territory. Overall, the Colorado field office edge stands at 32-11, after the Obama campaign added their 32d office Tuesday. Moreover, in our travels we're finding the Obama offices have generally opened earlier in the season than the McCain offices and have more organizers attached to each office. In the more rural areas like Cortez, Obama might have one full-time organizer, but in places like Colorado Springs and Boulder we counted very large staffs."
  • Denver, CO: "Kathy Archuleta is now a Latina Advisory team member for Barack Obama. Along with three other women, she has organized an impressive women-to-women outreach program aimed at adding 10,000 undecided and/or least-likely women voters to vote for Obama. In just two and a half weeks, Archuleta’s effort has coordinated a 1,000-strong-and-growing group. The goal for each member is to get at least eight women to vote for Obama who probably would not have voted otherwise. Among the group’s ranks, Archuleta counted 100 women in Colorado Springs, 100 in Vail, 100 in Evergreen, 50 in Pueblo, and 250-400 in the Denver area who would be counted on for this targeted outreach."
  • Omaha, NE (!!!): "This past weekend in Omaha, Republicans knocked on 11,000 doors. Two weeks ago when Barack Obama's permanent office opened, 1,100 volunteers showed up for the office opening. Eleven hundred people. "We essentially shut down midtown," said John Berge, Obama's Nebraska State Director. Omaha -- land of one precious electoral vote -- is not being conceded."
  • Des Moines, IA: "The ground game is extraordinarily numbers-based. For both campaigns, every single precinct in every state has a vote goal -- a specific number of votes the campaign has determined it needs to stay on pace with its overall path to victory in the state. By voting early, a supporter of a given candidate are giving his or her candidate a kind of donation. The sacrifice is the feeling of having participated in a vote on Election Day -- it feels like giving up a little bit of tradition. But campaigns are less concerned with tradition than with winning."
  • St. Louis county, MO: "We walk into McCain offices to find them closed, empty, one person, two people, sometimes three people making calls. Many times one person is calling while the other small clutch of volunteers are chatting amongst themselves. In one state, McCain’s state field director sat in one of these offices and, sotto voce, complained to us that only one man was making calls while the others were talking to each other about how much they didn't like Obama, which was true. But the field director made no effort to change this. This was the state field director."
  • Tippecanoe, IN: "Although John McCain has only one field office open in the state, Barack Obama has two on the same block. One is a large phone bank office, and a few doors down on the corner is the canvass staging area. We heard stories from volunteers who sometimes canvass because the phone bank is so frequently packed to capacity that if they want to volunteer, knocking on doors is the only option."
  • Bloomington, IN: "A few students got together to start the Obama group, and then each person brought two friends, and so forth, until the student group had a dedicated staff of 10-25 who regularly call and knock. Often they hit near 2000 dials in a night, the same as one of the three McCain Las Vegas, NV offices in its entirety."
  • New Albany, IN: "Democrats have to be considered the underdog here. Indiana hasn't gone blue since 1964 in LBJ's landslide year, and Republicans won by roughly 510,000 votes in 2004. Still, if we apply our 80-20 split on the self-selecting new Obama registrants (80% Obama registrants, 20% McCain) and a 75% turnout rate (newly registered voters vote in higher rates than regularly registered voters), then Obama just added approximately 318,000 votes in Indiana. Now the challenge is to get about 100,000 existingly-registered Bush voters to switch to Obama, approximately 4% of the roughly 2.5 million Indiana voters from 2004."
  • Dueling rallies, OH: "Obama did five rallies here in two days: Dayton, Cincinnati, Portsmouth, Chillicothe, and Columbus, while Palin did events in Wilmington (home of the DHL plant closing that David Plouffe promised to highlight in local radio ads) and Cleveland."
  • Troy, OH: "The first thing that stands out about the Troy, Ohio Obama field office is its placement. It's right in the heart of town. It catches everyone's attention -- you can't miss it. The next thing that caught our attention was that, since the office had first opened, 800 different people from Miami County had come through the office's doors to volunteer. There were only 51,760 voters in the entire county in 2004, and a mere 17,606 were Kerry voters. 4.5% of the entire Miami County Kerry vote has already walked in the doors to volunteer."'
  • Columbus, OH: "Barack Obama has 89 field offices open in the state of Ohio right now, about a 2-1 edge on John McCain. Kerry had 50 offices open in Ohio, and only 4 field organizers in Franklin County. Obama has three dozen, and Franklin County itself comprises two regions. As elsewhere, Ohio is the beneficiary of the long primary season. "Well over half" of Obama's general election organizers were veterans of the primary. Every Regional Field Director went through the primary or caucus. They've been through the wars. An organizer ages in dog years."
  • Toledo, OH: "Now that Debrah (Bush 04 defector) has settled into her role as one of Obama's Toledo Community Directors, she's amazed at the sophistication of the Obama structure. As a Community Director, she oversees three Neighborhood Team Leaders, volunteers who comprise the heart of Obama's volunteering infrastructure. Each neighborhood team, in turn, has up to five different coordinators: (1) the canvass coordinator; (2) the phonebank coordinator; (3) the volunteer coordinator; (4) the data coordinator; and (5) where applicable, the faith coordinator. In Ohio, Campaign for Change State Director Jeremy Bird told us, there are 1,231 defined neighborhoods, as of August 25 there were about 800 in place, and as of Saturday approximately 1,100 NTLs had been tested and were up in operation. By "tested," Bird said, each NTL had undergone and met a series of specific challenges the field organizers had presented."
  • Marietta, OH: "The other day at Obama's rally in Toledo, the local organizer asked everyone in attendance to (1) early vote; (2) make 40 phone calls or knock 40 doors; and (3) take Election Day off to help the volunteering effort. This is routine practice at every single event the campaign holds."
  • Morgantown, WV: "When we asked Vogel why he was confident about Obama's chances in a state nearly everyone had written off until the recent surge in polling, he pointed out that Democrats had 20 open offices, over 30 paid staff and thousands of volunteers. (McCain, by contrast, has one Charleston office open and one paid staffer.)"
  • Western PA: "In Washington County, a bellwether in this traditional swing state that John Kerry carried by a mere 552 votes out of over 96,000 cast, the Obama campaign's mood is optimistic but very cautious. The campaign has registered over 4,000 new voters in this county, and enough statewide since the primary season to push the Democratic registration edge to over 1.2 million."
  • Philadelphia suburbs, PA: "Obama himself hopped on a nationwide all-staff conference call Friday to emphasize this point to the troops. Pledging to "come down hard" on anyone getting "too cocky"."
  • Northern VA "660 people attended just this one office opening."
  • Richmond, VA: "They've done it. The McCain campaign has gone and pissed off Miss Virginia. When McCain senior adviser Nancy Pfotenhauer divided Virginia into the DC suburbs and "real Virginia," Kristi Lauren Glakas felt extremely disappointed. Glakas, a recent three-time Miss Virginia title holder and whip-smart University of Virginia scholarship honor student, said the comments were divisive."
  • Charlottesville, VA: "As for the Obama campaign here, well, you know the story by now if you've been reading our long series. Between the Coordinated Campaign offices and Campaign for Change offices and canvassing-only and phonebank-only offices, we saw no fewer than five office locations, all thrumming with energy and volunteers. All the offices had workers busy very late into the evenings, long past midnight."
  • Stone Gap, VA: "Mitch Stewart, Virginia State Director of Obama for America and one of the heroes of Iowa, told us in a sit-down interview that the Campaign for Change now boasted 49 offices in Virginia, with an additional 23 Virginia Coordinated Campaign party offices. 40 additional GOTV offices, not including the myriad GOTV staging locations clustered out from those offices, were already up and running."
  • Charlotte, NC: "After the training, we talked with Crandall about what he'd seen in Charlotte. He estimated the office would train 75 doorknocking volunteers just that day, just in that one Charlotte office. One thing that struck him was the way the campaign trusted its volunteers to take responsibility if the campaign simply provided the tools and overall direction. "The delegation of responsibility was tremendous," said Crandall." 
  • Raleigh, NC: "The Democratic HQ across town was much busier. When Republican offices are empty and shutting down, 7:30 pm in an Obama HQ or field office is only just past the halfway point of the workday."
More voters
The evolution of Obama primary operations into voter registration efforts into a GOTV attack of epic proportions will pay it's full dividends on Nov. 4 but in the meantime can already be measured by the impressive voter registration and early voting results. 

Voter registration
  • Pennsylvania: Per The Field: "Since April's primary, Democrats - mainly through the very aggressive voter registration efforts of the Obama campaign working out of 78 offices throughout the state - have added 186,908 voters to their column, while Republicans have added just 31,407 - a six-to-one tromp. In the final two weeks, Republicans made an eleventh hour push and registered 17,627 of those into their party, but during the same time period, 50,803 Democrats were added to the rolls."
  • Pennsylvania: The shock troops of the Obama revolution: volunteers like Leslie Wars who registered 1, 136 new voters.
  • Nevada (per the Secretary of State's office): 2004: D: 430k R: 434k. 2008: D: 625k R514k. In the only NV congressional district (CD2, which has never elected a Democrat to Congress) the GOP used to enjoy a +9% party ID advantage. Democrats now marginally outnumber GOPers Washoe. This is all the more critical given that Washoe represents 70% of the state's electorate as a whole. 
  • Colorado: Per Daily Kos: 2004: D: 942k R: 1.118mn I: 1.024mn. 2008: D: 1.051mn R: 1.063mn. I: 1.069mn. "As of January, 2008, Democrats made up 30.33% of the total registered electorate, Republicans made up 34.82%, and Independents made up 34.40%.  As of October 22, 2008, Democrats make up 32.81%, Republicans 33.19%, and Indies 33.38%."
  • Virginia: VA has added, 438,000 new voters this year (the state does not catagorise by party). Per 538: "Obama campaign strategists believe that, with their massive months-long, grinding-it-out-every-day registration plan, that 80 percent of those new registrations would vote for Obama, and that 75% of the newly registered voters will turn out. If 75% of an 80-20 split on 300,000 new registrants turns out, that’s Barack Obama adding 135,000 bonus votes to his total in Virginia alone." 
  • Florida: Per the AP: "Democrats have added more than two and a half times the number of new voters to the rolls than Republicans have. Democrats increased their numbers by approximately 461,000 registered voters while Republicans increased their registered voters by approximately 172,000. Republicans now have 4,064,301 registered voters and Democrats have 4,722,076, according to the Florida Division of Elections, giving Democrats an edge of roughly 658,000 registered voters. In 2004, the state had 3,892,492 registered Republicans and 4,261,249 registered Democrats, for a gap of 369,000. Overall, Florida now has nearly 1 million more voters than four years ago. The total, including people not registered with any party, is now 11,247,634 registered voters, up from 10,301,290 in 2004."
  • Ohio: Per the Dayton Daily News: "Democrats appear to have won the voter-registration battle in Ohio. Of the 822,804 newly registered voters in the state, almost six in 10 — more than 475,000 — are in the 16 counties that went Democratic in 2004 presidential election, a Dayton Daily News analysis of statewide voter registration data has found. The 72 remaining counties that went for President Bush in 2004 recorded some 347,000 voters. And most of Ohio's new voters are young, which polls indicate should favor Democrat Barack Obama over Republican John McCain on Nov. 4. The analysis found that almost 452,000 or 55 percent of the newly registered voters are under 30 years old. And more than a quarter, or 227,852, are 20 or younger. The latest Dayton Daily News/Ohio Newspaper Poll found that likely voters 29 and under favored Obama over McCain by 62 percent to 38 percent."
Early voting
  • Overall: Per CNN: "As of Tuesday, at least 9,813,052 ballots had been cast in 31 states that allow early, in-person or absentee voting without having to provide an excuse. The figures are based on reports from state election officials. Of those votes, at least 1.2 million ballots have been cast by registered Democrats and at least 731,200 by registered Republicans. These 1.9 million votes make up 19.6 percent of the 9.8 million early votes available for calculation by Many early voting states do not specify party affiliation for voters."
  • North Carolina: Per CNN: "As of Tuesday, just over 396,000 registered Republicans had cast early votes in North Carolina, compared with registered Democrats, who had cast 771,500 ballots -- nearly twice as many."
  • Colorado: Per the respected GMU US Elections Project, approximately 50% of Coloradans have already voted, with a slight edge to the Dems (numbers will be updated here once released tommorrow).
  • Virginia: VA does not have early voting.
  • Florida: Per CNNFlorida, well known as a presidential battleground, has brought out nearly 1.2 million early voters so far, according to election figures. According to figures provided Wednesday by the Florida Democratic Party, in-person early-vote ballots cast by registered Democrats in Florida totaled 772,694. Florida ballots cast in person by registered Republicans totaled 431,520. Forty-one percent of Florida's registered voters are Democratic and 37 percent are Republican, according to state election officials.
  • Nevada: Per CNN: "Election officials in Nevada only report party registration for Clark and Washoe counties, where the major cities of Las Vegas and Reno are located. There, early voters have been trending heavily Democratic: 161,463 to 90,017. The two counties account for about 90 percent of the state's population, and Democratic turnout is currently about 75 percent higher than turnout for Republicans, according to The Early Voting Center."
  • Ohio: Per the OH Secretary of State: "Today Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner announced key statistics on absentee ballots, early voting, and anticipated turnout. Highlights:
    • Through October 24th, 221,368 Ohioans requested in-person absentee ballots and 1,234,996 requested mail-in absentee ballots – an unprecendented total of 1,456,364 absentee ballot requests. (This is the first presidential election in which any Ohio voter can request an absentee ballot without a reason.)
    • Brunner expects "historic" voter turnout of 80%, or 6,480,000 Ohio voters, and anticipates absentee ballots could account for up to 1/3 of those voters. To date, absentee ballot requests represent 22.5% of that anticipated turnout.
    • During the one-week "overlap" period for same-day in-person registration and voting, 652,875 absentee ballots were requested, of which 585,467 were mail-in and 67,408 were in-person. However, only about 12,800 of Ohioans requesting in-person absentee ballots also registered on the same day. 
      The highest turnout precentage in any prior presidential election (since 1977 when such percentages became available) was 77.15% in 1992. The turnout in 2004 was 71.77%. 
      * If Brunner is right about turnout and if a third of those voters will have voted early, that means that the number of people actually walking into polling places on November 4th will be about 4,290,000. Judging by this chart, that appears to be fewer Election Day voters than any presidential election since 1980, perhaps even 1977 (depending on how many people voted absentee in prior years, when a valid reason for doing so was required).
The Obama Revolution in Political Affairs
By expanding his supporter base, utilising the internet (whilst optimizing traditional fundraising means) to raise record sums, re-shaping the electorates of key states and putting new states into play, Obama has revolutionised political campaigning. Critically, Team Obama operationalised this approach by brilliantly integrating it's field operations from the primary season into a magnificent voter registration programme which in turn became a GOTV juggernaut.

Obama's campaign has seen the advent of a new and powerful donor/activist model (one that both Huckabee and Palin are likely to utilise in their struggle for the 2012 GOP nod), it has shown that electorates are not static statistical models (Nov. 4th could be the Iowa Caucus writ large) and it has huge potential governing implications for a President Obama (which we will explore during the bizarre twilight that is Transition). 

All of this will be tested on Nov. 4, but if this assessment is accurate, Nov. 4th isn't the end of the Obama model, it is the beginning of nothing less then the transformation of political campaigning. Boney and Carl would be proud.

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