Barack Obama's 50-State Campaign
by Jonathan Singer, Sun Jun 08, 2008 at 12:12:36 PM EDT
A couple weeks ago I noted how Barack Obama was approaching the point at which he had campaigned in all 50 states during the primary elections, an indication of the type of map-changing campaign he intended to run in 2008. Now The New York Times' Adam Nagourney and Jeff Zeleny have looked at Obama's organization and plans for the next few weeks and have come to see that he indeed intends to work to win states the Democrats haven't carried in decades, broadening the party's path to winning back the White House in November.
Senator Barack Obama's general election plan calls for broadening the electoral map by challenging Senator John McCain in typically Republican states -- from North Carolina to Missouri to Montana -- as Mr. Obama seeks to take advantage of voter turnout operations built in nearly 50 states in the long Democratic nomination battle, aides said.
On Monday, Mr. Obama will travel to North Carolina -- a state that has not voted for a Democratic presidential candidate in 32 years -- to start a two-week tour of speeches, town hall forums and other appearances intended to highlight differences with Mr. McCain on the economy. From there, he heads to Missouri, which last voted for a Democrat in 1996. His first campaign swing after securing the Democratic presidential nomination last week was to Virginia, which last voted Democratic in 1964.
Mr. Obama's aides said some states where they intend to campaign -- like Georgia, Missouri, Montana and North Carolina -- might ultimately be too red to turn blue. But the result of making an effort there could force Mr. McCain to spend money or send him to campaign in what should be safe ground, rather than using those resources in states like Ohio.
Mr. Obama's campaign manager, David Plouffe, said that the primary contest had left the campaign with strong get-out-the-vote operations in Republican states that were small enough that better-than-usual turnout could make a difference in the general election. Among those he pointed to was Alaska, which last voted for a Democrat in 1964.
"Do we have to win any of those to get to 270?" Mr. Plouffe said, referring to the number of electoral votes needed to win the election. "No. Do we have reason to think we can be competitive there? Yes. Do we have organizations in those states to be competitive? Yes. This is where the primary was really helpful to us now."
A Republican strategist said that, according to party monitoring services, Mr. Obama's campaign had inquired about advertising rates in 25 states, including traditionally Republican states like Georgia, Mississippi and North Carolina. That would constitute a very large purchase. President Bush, whose 2004 campaign had the most expensive advertising drive in presidential history, usually ran commercials in a maximum of 17 states.
Does this mean that Obama will be shirking his responsibility of putting forward a strenuous effort in the traditional swing states? Of course not. Indeed, Nagourney and Zeleny report that in Ohio, for instance, Obama is hiring Aaron Pickrell, Governor Ted Strickland's top strategist who also helped Hillary Clinton win the state's primary in March. Likewise, even if Obama does extend by nearly a half the record number of states to be advertised in this year, several of them (including Michigan and Pennsylvania) will be states that the Democrats have carried in years past, swing states that are key to getting to 270 electoral votes.
But putting the McCain camp on its heels and forcing Republicans to actually have to campaign in states like North Carolina, Mississippi, Alaska -- states they haven't seriously fought for in any recent presidential election (and states in which the presence of former Congressman Bob Barr on the ballot as the Libertarian Party nominee could help make Obama's task more than a bit easier) -- almost undoubtedly will make it easier for Obama to succeed this fall (just as Democrats campaigning across the country in 2006, even in very red corners of the nation, increased the possibility of retaking the House and the Senate).