THE BLOG

Obama Team Sets Sights On Post-Super Tuesday Prizes

In a conference call with the reporters today, Obama's campaign manager David Plouffe said that his team is already "aggressively organizing" in the states that go to primary or caucus on February 9 (Louisiana, Nebraska and Washington), 12 (Maryland, Virginia and D.C.) and 19 (Hawaii and Wisconsin). Obama has staff "already in place" in all these states, except for Wisconsin, "coming soon." There is good reason to think Barack Obama would have a good chance of garnering the majority of these 553 delegates. Louisiana, Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia have large numbers of African-American voters. Hawaii is Obama's home state. Washington (at least the Democratic coastal part) is very liberal. Many Nebraskans drove next door to Iowa to see and hear Obama over the past year and therefore know him well.

Looking ahead only as far as Super Tuesday, Plouffe sprinkled his remarks with the caveat that, of course, everything might end in seven days with one candidate victorious. He spoke with the genial equanimity, however, that I have long since discovered is a sign that the Obama folk are feeling chipper. They would seem to be entitled to some optimism. In laying out "the state of the race," Plouffe said that their own polls show "pretty significant movement in the last 48 hours." He went on to say that among the 22 Super Tuesday states are 16 "where decent attendance from undeclared and independent voters" would favor Obama. This is the conventional wisdom. This is why that massive phone bank for Obama last Saturday in the California field offices (220,000 calls made) targeted those voters. Plouffe also said that "there has been some movement in California," but that "it will be very close from a delegate point of view." What Plouffe finds most significant is that in both California and Arizona, where Clinton has always held commanding leads, "her hard vote has fallen below 40%."

Plouffe ticked off some of the reasons for the campaign's robustness (the small town and rural vote, newspaper endorsements, more Latino officials coming out for Obama, closing the gap in the Superdelegate pledges) before dwelling on its core strength. "We've been ahead in grassroots from the beginning," Plouffe said. "That's our dominant advantage." The Obama Campaign now has 500 paid staff and 75,000 "active volunteers." (In South Carolina Saturday, 13,000 volunteers worked.) As significantly, the campaign has 600,000 donors now, 97% of whom have not maxed out (italics mine). Since South Carolina, the campaign has raised 5 million online (yesterday it was 4). Obama is going to need the money. By tomorrow, according to Plouffe, there will be an Obama spot on radio or TV in every Super Tuesday state except Illinois. They are "beefing up the buy in LA" and even have spots in Alaska and Idaho.

"We are trying to do as well as we can in all 22 [Super Tuesday] states," Plouffe said. If this is indeed the plan, it is in marked contrast to the Clinton strategy, which seems to be counting on a "win" in the Florida Democratic Primary (a "does-not-count" event since the candidates pledged not to campaign in Florida after the DNC stripped the state of its delegates) today to bolster her support elsewhere rather than actually running a ground campaign in as many of the 22 states as possible. The day after South Carolina, for example, Clinton attended a church service in Memphis (as a native Memphian, I can tell you that the endorsement of pastors there is worth even less than in South Carolina) before jetting off to a photo op with Mayor Manny Diaz of Miami, a quick thirty-minute political sortie sandwiched between two fundraisers in South Florida. On the same day, Barack Obama was campaigning in Georgia and Alabama, two states that actually have delegates up for grabs.

The Obama Campaign seems to be trying to keep its cool about Hillary Clinton's messing about in Florida. Perhaps the team has learned the lesson that all their complaining in Nevada was counterproductive, in the end. Nevertheless, John Kerry, at the beginning of the conference call, talked about the Clinton Campaign's embrace of Florida. "I want to address the [fact that] the Clinton Campaign had a call [with the press] suggesting that Florida should be covered by you folks in serious fashion." Kerry spoke calmly but sternly, like a school principal. "Florida should not become a spin race, a fabricated race," he said. To cover Florida would be "to suggest something that isn't." And then he reminded us, as if we needed reminding, that as long as Hillary Clinton was campaigning in Iowa and New Hampshire, she maintained that "Michigan and Florida shouldn't count for anything." All the while, however, there's been "a sub-campaign by ASME" going on there in her behalf. (Indeed the Obama Campaign has not had good union karma, what with all the flap over the last-minute union support for Edwards in Iowa, the way in which the Culinary Workers' endorsement in Nevada backfired, losing the UFW in California even though Obama is the "new RFK.") Kerry went on to say that there's "a contrast today, a juxtaposition" between Obama's campaign and Clinton's. Since this would seem to be true, Kerry didn't get exercised but merely commented.

How will the Clinton foray into Florida work out for her? We should have a sense of that within days. Has she wasted precious time that could have been spent in Super Tuesday cities? Has she further tarnished the Clinton brand? It seems inconceivable, as David Plouffe himself said, that the DNC would give back to Michigan and Florida their delegates if the race continues to be close. It would seem that Hillary Clinton is now squandering much of her commanding lead coming into Super Tuesday and, by concentrating on Florida, allowing the Obama Campaign to move in quickly to capture the all-important undeclared and independent voters. Time is the one commodity Obama did not have after South Carolina; but now Clinton has given him some of hers.