Obama USA’08: the strategic view

Strategy isn’t, of course, what draws me to the Barack Obama campaign, but the campaign strategy is finally becoming clear to me. Super Tuesday was, by design or accident, a huge anti-insurgency firewall. To field grassroots organizations that could overturn an incumbent (which, in many ways, is what Clinton is), would be beyond the reach of an ordinary campaign (for example, John Edwards).

Thus, the goal was not to win the contest, but rather to breach the firewall and stay alive. To do this, the campaign had to win important symbolic contests while also racking up an adequate delegate count.

This is probably why Massachusetts was sacrificed in favor of Connecticut: the goal here was to win a single Northeastern state to maintain credibility, not win delegates. Better to pick up a state and fall behind somewhat on delegates than to pick up more delegates but show no victories in any northeast state. And Connecticut, if only for its size, was friendlier to the Obama approach.

The fact has been that wherever Obama has deployed grassroots organizers, it has beaten its opponents handily, but wherever it has not, the existing power structure comes out on top. The problem with Super Tuesday was that there was just too many states running all at once to deploy that many organizers, that quickly. Now that the sheer number of states is shrinking, the game goes back to Obama’s core competency: street fighting.

I would add that momentum goes with Obama: the more people see of him, the more they like him (and believe it or not, a lot of people have managed to pay very little attention to the campaign). However, I do think momentum relied heavily on a credible showing in California, and as of this moment (2:37 EST), the numbers are not looking so hot in CA.

CA was also important because it was a test of the scalability of Obama’s Old-is-New grassroots model, which has proven remarkably effective in Iowa, South Carolina, Georgia, Utah, and several other states. In that respect, California is a microcosm of the problem of Super Tuesday itself: a large hunk o’ turf and a limited number of warm bodies to put out on the front lines.

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One thought on “Obama USA’08: the strategic view

  1. I really agree, especially about how people like more of Obama the more they see of him… not sure if that’s really true about the other candidates.

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