Behind Obama's D.C. Landslide
by alexmhogan, Thu Feb 14, 2008 at 05:38:52 AM EST
From the moment that Barack Obama won Iowa, proving that he was serious competitor for the nomination, it was clear that Hillary Clinton was going to have a hard time in the District of Columbia's February 12th primary. As a majority African-American city, with a large contingent of highly-educated, progressive leaning voters - plus an early endorsement from D.C.'s popular Mayor Adrian Fenty - it was obvious that D.C. was prime Obama-country. The Illinois Senator ended up winning every single precinct in the city.
While no one was surprised by Obama's victory, today's Washington Post shows some revealing contrasts between the two campaigns.
Clinton's campaign, which has its own historic dynamic, stumbled early on in the District, said Thomas M. Smith, a Clinton supporter and chairman of the Ward 3 Democratic Committee. "Frankly, what I really think is that the Clinton strategy was really wrong," he said.
The New York senator's team assembled a who's who of supporters -- five seated D.C. Council members, at least five former council members and a host of the city's Democratic elite -- to endorse her or work on her steering committee, Smith said.
"It was focused on elected officials instead of grass-roots," Smith said. "They just started a network two weeks ago. By then, it was too late."
Compare this with the Obama campaign.
Obama's presence was felt in every corner of the city.
About 500 people, including 150 students from Howard University, fanned out into every ward to encourage Obama supporters to vote after a meeting in the parking lot of Home Depot in Northeast on Tuesday afternoon. An additional 500 volunteers stood outside polling places, waved to voters at Metro stops and served as drivers, Falcicchio said.
Much of the organizing was done through e-mails, with DC for Obama assembling an e-mail list of 4,000 supporters, (senior Fenty adviser John) Falcicchio said.
He said volunteers were working with a list of nearly 90,000 likely Obama supporters to target for their votes. The pre-certified election results show 88,232 votes cast for Obama.
One interesting aspect of Obama's D.C. operation was how it tied into previously existing grassroots organizations of D.C. Democrats, particularly the D.C. chapter of Democracy for America which endorsed Obama in October and became very active in leading his D.C.'s efforts, helping organize his delegate slate and doing outreach to activists and voters.
Only three candidates responded to D.C. for Democracy's candidate questionnaire, sent out last summer: Edwards, Gravel and Obama. It's unlikely that Clinton would have received their endorsement even if her campaign had bothered to respond, but it does indicate how much her campaign was really betting on her inevitability - as Joshua Green reiterate - at that point in 2007, that she didn't even bother to try to work for every possible endorsement she could get.