Thursday, November 13, 2008

How did Obama do it?

Arguably no presidential candidate had faced the challenge that Barack Obama faced in winning the highest office in America.

Not only would he need to overcome the race barrier as the first African American president, but he had many other strikes going against him as well. He was young -- he will be the fifth youngest president ever to take office -- and his political resume was not that extensive.

He grew up in Hawai'i and Indonesia, areas not exactly known for churning out presidents, and he had an immigrant African father. These factors meant that Obama would have to fight even for some African American votes in the early going.

His father granted him a strange name including a tricky middle name of "Hussein."

It would be hard to imagine a family farther away from "Middle America" than Obama's, at least is we use the traditional definition of that concept. His mother was in fact from that region, Kansas to be precise, but his father was born into a Muslim family, and he has a sister who is half-Indonesian and Buddhist by religion.

Obama ran from the Midwestern state of Illinois, which had produced Abraham Lincoln, a candidate whose experience closely matched Obama's. However, the last time a candidate based in a Midwestern state had won the presidential election was in the 1920s when Warren G. Harding from Ohio was elected. The last 15 elections had been won by candidates from the states of Texas, California, Arkansas, Georgia and Massachusetts.

Probably most importantly, Obama faced one of the most "inevitable" candidates imaginable. Hillary Clinton had all the big connections thought necessary for success. The great bulk of the Democratic establishment was behind her. The major hope for support against Hillary came from more activist labor unions that tended to instead support John Edwards.

Even after winning the primary, many thought that Barack would still have a tough time gaining the presidency. There was constant talk of the "Bradley effect" and early on about divisions in the Democratic Party.

So then, how was Barack Obama able to engineer the greatest "upset" in presidential history?

First of all, Barack was an ideal candidate especially in terms of timing. He made few mistakes and his message of change was right on target. Indeed, he embodied change in terms of his career and message. Even his strangeness in name, family, upbringing, etc., by which his opponents sought to distance him from the electorate, acted indirectly to bolster his linkage with the concept of change.

Barack selected people for his campaign team, who like him, made few mistakes.

And like many other successful candidates in the past, Barack embraced a new medium to reach voters and supporters and took it to the level needed to win. Howard Dean, and even his opponent John McCain, pioneered campaigning on the internet to a great extent, but it was the Obama team that came up with the winning formula.

Social networking and texting were in their infancies in this country during the Dean campaign, but were used by Obama and his supporters to the full extent. The ease, cost effectiveness and reach of online networks were fully demonstrated during this election cycle.

Online organizing was used to support traditional campaign work like phone-banking, canvassing, tabling and rallies but also for more spectacular efforts in other media. The large publicity event was used to the fullest extent by the Obama team. At first, Obama's opponents hammered him for show-boating, but before long they too embraced the ideas of big rallies and other press events.

Television, of course, is still the main media for reaching voters. The television audience is still much larger than its online counterpart especially when one considers that most people still use the internet only for email and do not bother to surf the web. Online videos are still to choppy for most connections to compare with full sensory television ads.

However, as more people come online, and more young texters reach voting age, the situation will continue to flow toward electronic campaigning. An online video is much, much cheaper to distribute, for example, than a national television ad even if it reaches fewer people. And when you build up your online network, you can tap them for money to buy those expensive tv ads later on down the road.

By using online networks at levels never before fathomed, Obama wielded a 'secret weapon' that his opponents were never able to deal with effectively.

That together with the timing of Obama's appearance on the scene, the consistency of his message with his life and work, all worked together to overcome the tremendous obstacles in his path toward victory.

1 comment:

shepherdess said...

Hey! I wrote Oprah this letter, I don't know if she heard me. Anybody?

Dear Oprah!

Over the years I have written you, I have sent you my book, and musical project. Somehow my heart never spoke loud enough for you to hear me.

However this time I am crying out to you as loudly as I can. I almost gave up, and thought, "Perhaps I am just too low", and no one can hear me from way down here. Though I keep trying to be heard, my cry sometimes has been muted by despair.

Then the night before last night, 'Inside-Edition", reported that President Elect Barack Obama had slept outside on top of his luggage, on a street in NYC for a night. He had gone there to attend Columbia University. The person he was suppose to stay with did not answer the door.

I thought to myself -- if that man had given up, he would have never known what it would be like to sleep in the White House. (The Peoples House Now). I got up and white house is somewhere out there, I have got to get up and cry louder.

Oprah, I have written a song, called, "World Heal Thyself". I sing it for God although I want to sing it to the world and for our First Family. I know I'm the most unlikely and so was he [Obama], so were you, although someone took your hand and pulled you up.

They had to look past a lot to do it, the color of your skin, your background, your pain, but somebody heard you. You have heard many cries over the years....can you hear me?

I am not as young as I once was and perhaps I should not reach up so high for your hand but if Barack had not reached, if he had not believed, if there had not been the, "Yes We Can" somewhere down in his spirit, way before we ever heard him utter the words ---- We would have never heard him say those words today.

Oprah, I'm crying, as loud as I can today....Does your heart hear mine?

At the Saviors Feet, Crying, "God Let Oprah Hear Me".

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