The pundits are busy digging into the how and why of Obama’s win: it came down to focus, discipline, one clear message and an extraordinary internet campaign.

On his own terms Obama won on his own terms, strategically and symbolically. He rolled up a series of contested states, from Colorado to Virginia, long out of Democratic reach. And his victory reflected the accuracy of his vision of a reshaped country. Racism, much discussed, turned out to be a footnote, and African-American turnout was not unusually high. Instead, Obama drew his strength from an array of racially mixed, growing areas around cities such as Orlando, Fla., Washington, Indianapolis and Columbus, Ohio, on his way to at least 334 electoral votes.

…As grand as the symbolism of Obama’s victory was, it was also a victory for his steady, corporate campaign management. The campaign’s early decision to play on a more ambitious map than other Democratic nominees was the source of his mandate. And the result closely mirrored the PowerPoint presentation his campaign manager, David Plouffe, pitched to sometimes-skeptical audiences of reporters and donors.

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…Earlier campaigns had celebrated their technological prowess, but in Obama’s cutting-edge campaign, new political technology was implemented and came of age, evidenced by the campaign’s vaunted fundraising machine and its “Houdini” computer system, which enabled the campaign as late as Tuesday afternoon to identify and bring to the polls a last wave of supporters who hadn’t yet voted. — Ben Smith and Jonathan Martin, Politico

Money talks “Money is the mother’s milk of politics,” legendary California Democrat (and Reagan adversary) Jesse “Big Daddy” Unruh was fond of saying. Well, nobody in Sacramento politics, including Reagan himself, ever saw anything like the Obama fundraising machine of 2008. This is a campaign that raised more than $600 million—more than it needed, more than it could spend—which allowed it to campaign and to air ads in every part of Ohio, to run high-dollar get-out-the-vote drives in traditionally Republican states, to stage first-class outdoor events catering to hundreds of thousands of people, to emerge flush even in the wake of the most expensive primary campaign in history, to eschew federal matching money (breaking a campaign promise in the process), to outspend McCain in every swing state, and to buy half-hour infomercials on the major networks in prime time less than a week before the election. — Carl M. Cannon Blog, Readers Digest

A flawless campaign The story of Mr. Obama’s journey to the pinnacle of American politics is the story of a campaign that was, even in the view of many rivals, almost flawless. But Mr. Obama and his aides believed from the outset that it would have to be nothing less than that if he was to overcome obstacles that sometimes in the drama of the year became easy to forget: that this was a black man with an unusual name and exotic past, someone dogged by a stubborn (and inaccurate) belief among some voters that he is a Muslim, who began plotting his presidential run less than two years after moving from the Illinois Legislature to the United States Senate.

…The two captains of his effort, the disheveled David Axelrod, his close friend and political strategist, and the meticulous David Plouffe, the campaign manager, had never been on a team that had won a presidential nomination, much less a general election.

… Mr. Obama had no organization and no clear idea of what he was getting into. He was so unfamiliar with the requirements of a national campaign that his aides drafted a set of mock schedules to show him the states where he would have to invest a lot of time. When Mr. Obama, the father of two young girls, asked if he could go home on weekends, his aides replied: Not if you want to win. — Adam Nagourney, Jim Rutenberg, Jeff Zeleny The New York Times

A clear message Barack Obama will become the next President of the United States because he defined himself early with a clear message of change, centered in a maturity and calmness in which he never got knocked off stride. Plain and simple.

…Throughout this campaign, he displayed an intellectual, calming, coolness. He crafted a message that did not come across as typical liberal fare. Instead, it came across to the majority of Americans as inspiring, hopeful and bi-partisan. Whether Obama governs the way he speaks will be a key focus of his first 100 days. — The Brody Files, CBN News

Self awareness The campaign strategist, David Axelrod, told Obama he worried that the candidate was “too normal” to run a presidential campaign, and Obama began wondering himself. He missed going to the movies and reading a book and playing with his kids. He worried about “losing touch” with “what matters.” To a Newsweek reporter he said, “I’m not trying to say that I’m some sort of reluctant candidate—obviously this is a choice I made. But there was some tension there in my own mind.” He seemed so distracted in one debate that one of his rivals, former senator John Edwards, came up to him during a break and scolded him, “Barack … you’ve got to focus.”

Obama bridled at the sometimes mindless rituals and one-upmanship of a national political campaign in the age of cable news. He resented the pressure he felt to declare, as he put it to NEWSWEEK, that you “want to bomb the hell out of someone” to show toughness on terrorism. He was surprised when Hillary Clinton refused to shake his hand on the Senate floor after he declared his candidacy. And he was upset with his own campaign after a low-level staffer referred in a press release to Clinton as “(D-Punjab)” because of her ties to supporters of India. “I don’t want you guys freelancing and, quote, protecting me from what you’re doing,” he lectured his staff. “I’m saying this loud and clear—no winks, no nods here,” he said, irritated to take the heat for a clumsy dirty trick he had not known about and would never have authorized. “I’m looking at every one of you. If you think you’re close to the line, the answer isn’t to protect me—the answer is to ask me.” Obama was something unusual in a politician: genuinely self-aware. — Newsweek

Engagement with the enemy It was not only Barack Obama who made history—so did his strategists. They designed a plan and executed it relentlessly through a brutal primary and general election. Twice they upended the idea that no plan survives engagement with the enemy. Obama won by driving up his vote in traditional Democratic areas, and he shrunk the margins in conservative areas. They also out-hustled the competition. According to exit polls, 27 percent of voters said they were contacted by the Obama camp. Only 19 percent say they were contacted by the McCain camp. — John Dickerson, Slate

The web As the presidential race heated up, the internet grew from being the medium of a core group of political junkies to a gateway for millions of ordinary Americans to participate in the political process, donating odd amounts of their spare time to their candidate through online campaign tools. Obama’s campaign carefully designed its web site to maximize group collaboration, while at the same time giving individual volunteers tasks they could follow on their own schedules.

…In many ways, the story of Obama’s campaign was the story of his supporters, whose creativity and enthusiasm manifested through multitudes of websites and YouTube videos online. It even resulted in volunteer contributions like the innovative Obama ’08 iPhone and iTouch application that enabled owners to mobilize their friends and contacts in battleground states through the Apple devices. The campaign was constantly adding new features even to the end, and many hope that Obama will bring this approach with him to the White House. Obama almost has no choice as he faces the task of rebuilding Washington’s credibility with voters, says David Stephenson, a consultant who advises governments on transparency. — Sarah Lai Stirland, Wired


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Peter Fray
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