WASHINGTON -- The campaign is over, but the machinery that put President Barack Obama back in the White House isn't being placed in mothballs. Campaign manager Jim Messina signaled Tuesday that Obama For America will play a role in the legislative process -- beginning with pending fiscal cliff negotiations.
Speaking at a POLITICO Playbook breakfast in Washington, D.C., Messina was reticent to explicitly answer the question that has been trailing the campaign since the presidential election two weeks ago: What happens to the political machine that created the two largest grassroots campaigns in history, that elected and reelected Obama in 2008 and 2012?
"We don't know,” Messina said, noting that per Federal Election Commission law, the campaign itself has to shut down. “Some of it will absolutely live on,” he added, pointing to the social tools that defined the OFA operation’s technological strategy.
That infrastructure includes Dashboard, the social network built by the Obama campaign to connect and organize over one million volunteers across the country, and tracking models that enabled staff to monitor support in critical swing states. Their models, Messina said, estimated the president would win Florida by 0.2 percentage points and accurately predicted early voting within a percentage point.
“All of those things, I hope every campaign uses and I hope becomes important,” Messina said. But OFA will not be selling access to tools such as Dashboard, he said, emphasizing the need for future campaigns to establish their own movements.
“I want to be firm about this -- you can't just hand this to the next candidate for president,” Messina said. “This organization was built for people who support this president.”
He added that supporters want to remain involved in shaping and supporting the president’s agenda over the next four years, and identified Dashboard as a means for them to connect with members of Congress during the critical fiscal cliff talks.
The president himself made a push to 30,000 of his top campaign activists last week in a conference call, as part of the bid to keep them engaged in the political process, beginning with upcoming tax and budget negotiations.
"We are going to have some triumphs and some successes, but there are going to be some tough days, starting with some of these negotiations around the fiscal cliff that you probably read about, making sure that our tax system is fair,” Obama said. “So we are going to need you guys to stay active. We need you to stick with us and stay on this."
Messina expressed confidence that supporters would indeed remain active and stay on during the course of the president’s second term. He even sent an email to the OFA database on Sunday evening to solicit feedback on not just the campaign, but what the group would like to do down the road.
“People just spent five years winning two elections together,” Messina said. “They're not now just going to walk away.”
Messina said some important decisions about the operation’s future, including his own role within it, should be made by the president’s inauguration in January. But one thing is clear -- the movement will live on, its fate determined by the network that helped build it.
“You can’t run two presidential campaigns from the grassroots," he said, "and say now we’re going to run this from D.C."