Obama Revolutionizes Electoral Campaigns

Erika Casajoana  

www.lavanguardia.es - November, 19, 2008
(Translated from the original Spanish versionj)

Barack Obama, US president elect and brilliant media star, is getting ready to occupy the position for which he has fought two years of exhausting but very
formative campaign.

Besides unleashing a historic political earthquake, Obama has forever revolutionized the way campaigns are run in the United States, and by extension in the
rest of the world. Experts consider his presidential campaign as the best organized ever. It already serves as the benchmark for all.

Obama forewent $87 million in public financing because he would have had to stop getting and spending private money after his nomination in August. This
gamble worked very well for him as he broke all fundraising records by collecting $639 million in donations, mostly small and received online.

McCain amassed much less, $360 million, but among the two they raised this campaign’s cost to the highest ever, $1 billion. In 2004, that figure was $880

The American public campaign finance system will now have to be changed, since no one will again attempt to win the presidency with such “small change”.  

Bill McInturf, a pollster in McCain’s team, believes they lost because Republicans had less money this time, while they used to enjoy a funding advantage over
Democrats. According to this political consultant, McCain’s inability to match Obama’s advertising spree forced him to go more negative in order to attract
media attention –which sank him further in the polls and fostered donations for Obama. I think though that the Republican party did not lose because it had less
funds, but raised less money because it failed to generate enthusiasm among the populace.

There has been much talk already about the multiple factors running in favor of Obama and against McCain. The Arizona Senator paid for George W. Bush’s
mistakes, and then he added some of his own.

Surprisingly, Republicans lost the majority of voters with college educations and even those with yearly income of $100,000 and above.

An overwhelming financial dominance thanks to 3 million small donors, together with 10 million voters registered on his website gave Obama the capacity to
lead the political debate. He indulged in a 30-minute presentation ad on prime time television.

Obama is a very talented speaker. And he has proved to be a formidable organizer. He has equaled with the Internet the transformation operated by television
in the 1960 campaign.

His campaign was organized, in a revolutionary way, from bottom up. He made the masses feel that they were part of the change, and he invited them to be
part of history (it is understood, of the election of the first black president, although he tried as a candidate to be above racial questions.)

Anita Dunn, a consultant for Obama, stresses that her client not only has kept true to his message since 2004, but that his message is an organic part of who he
is. In a speech that catapulted him to fame, Obama stated in front of the Democratic Convention that there was not a white America and a black America but
the United States of America. While other candidates must make an effort to remember their messages, for Obama the message is part of his identity.

In this campaign, television remained crucial. But now other media are also determinant: citizens access political information from different sources. Moreover,
the new media generate coverage by the traditional. For instance, McCain’s campaign posted controversial ads on his website, hoping that tv channels would
broadcast them as news and therefore without advertising fees.

Obama’s campaign reduced press conferences and emphasized direct contact, without filters, with the electorate thanks to the new electronic media y online
social sites: Facebook, MySpace, email, blogs, cell phones, etc.

Obama is not the first presidential candidate to bet strongly for technology. The pioneer was Democrat Howard Dean in 2004, who galvanized the youth
opposed to the Irak war. Dean bowed out during the primaries, but the way he used the Internet to raise funds and mobilize his followers in the physical world
started a new era.

Until 2004, elections were fought only in the few states that were competitive, ignoring the rest. Howard Dean introduced the concept of the “50-state
campaign”, raising money and generating grassroots public opinion in the country as a whole. Obama absorbed Dean’s concepts and elevated them to a new

According to Dunn, another good decision by Obama was to contend strongly the Iowa caucuses, where the first votes are cast. Winning a white state proved to
the whole country that a black candidate could be elected. Yes, we can.

Finally, Barack Obama was lucky to confront Hillary Clinton in the primaries. By the time the general election arrived his weakest points –lack of experience,
Reverend Wright- had been fully debated.  Hillary made of Obama a tested man and a better candidate.

Erika Casajoana
Political Consultant