Saturday, October 13, 2007

An organizer as candidate

Two friends from different sides of the country, both with deep experience of working in elections, pointed me to this item which partially contradicts what I said about Barack Obama in this post. Am I wrong that Obama doesn't have the megalomanial need to win that a candidate needs?

DES MOINES, Iowa — Barack Obama began his speech in an odd and important way, a way that did not make a single news story.

Obama was delivering a major address, reminding voters of his early opposition to the Iraq war. It was big deal speech. There were prepared texts handed out to the press and everything.

But Obama's first words were not in his text, even though they may have been the most important words he spoke all day.

"If you have not yet signed up as a Barack Obama supporter, hopefully after the speech you will," he told the crowd at the Polk County Convention Complex. "Fill out one of those cards. We’ll have volunteers all across the doors. You won’t be able to get out without seeing one of these cards."

Pretty mundane stuff, right? Which is why most candidates don’t bother with it. Especially not in a speech being covered by the national press, with six TV cameras grinding away. ...

"If you are already a supporter, then I would love for you to fill out another card indicating you want to be a precinct captain," Obama went on. "Because we need precinct captains in every precinct all across Iowa. And if you are not going to be a precinct captain, then we want you to find four more supporters to caucus for us. That’s a pretty simple assignment." ...

After Obama’s speech, he worked the rope line, which just about every candidate does. But on the rope line, there was a staff person behind him, with sign-up cards in her hand.

And if you shook the candidate’s hand, or got an autograph from him or got him to pose for a picture with you, she handed you a card and asked you to sign up, to volunteer, to bring four friends with you next time.


This is an amazing account of a candidate who understands organizing. Maybe the guy does have the burning desire that makes a candidate -- or maybe he is simply the extremely rare candidate who actually understands how elections get won at the base level.

For another perspective on Obama as organizer, see this admiring article by Ryan Lizza.

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