All Politicking is Local: How the Obama Campaign is Using Technology to Change Elections on the Ground


"It's the difference between open and closed source." That's how Cyrus Krohn, director of the eCampain division of the Republican National Committee, describes the approaches of the Obama and McCain campaigns.

The Democratic campaign is using technology to create a very large, relatively unstructured army of local volunteers to register voters and get out the vote; the Republicans are relying on a more conventional, top-down approach.

The stakes are high: the better ground game can be worth 2-3% on Election Day, says veteran strategist Joe Trippi. That means that in a close race, the field organization could make the difference. And even if the presidential election is decided by a wider margin, turnout will have a big impact on other races to be decided November 4.

The GOP once had a large lead in connecting huge voter-file databases to volunteers; a crash program by the Democrats closed that gap. Now the Obama campaign is betting that its net-enabled strategy will allow it to leapfrog the vaunted Republican technology effort, and that its local cadres will make the difference at the polls. (The strategy doesn't impress everyone.)

I've posted a draft of my upcoming feature on this topic. Part One, The Ground Game: Open Source vs Closed, sets up the big themes. Part Two, Local Area Networks: How the Obama Campaign Works on the Ground, looks at a group of volunteers in small-town North Carolina. Part Three: Connecting the Campaign: How the Democrats Built Their Network, looks at the plumbing and wiring behind the scenes. And Part Four, Going Mobile: Texting and Twittering in the New Ground Game, is about, well, the stuff the title says it's about.

Thanks to all the smart folks who took time during a busy political season to help with this article.


14 Comments for "All Politicking is Local: How the Obama Campaign is Using Technology to Change Elections on the Ground"

  • Obama Lies October 21, 2008 11:45 am

    Nothing like bragging up Obama anywhere you can. I have to agree with some of the other people that have commented. Technology doesn't do you any good if your supporters lack common sense. As shown by others on this thread.

  • Ed Cone October 13, 2008 10:44 am

    I'd be interested in any specific, factual or tonal critiques you might offer, Willie. I reported the story, and this is what I found. As you no doubt noticed, major sources for the article are RNC and GOP folks. If I'd discovered that the McCain campaign had the more interesting tech strategy, that's what you would have read.

  • Willie October 11, 2008 4:43 pm

    Wow Ed!!! Auditioning for a position with Newsweek, the NY Times or Democratic National Committee (all three are interchangeable)?

  • Minki October 09, 2008 12:25 pm

    Asadh, based in your lack of knowledge of the English language, the 'fog' index you display is in the same category of 'O' boy's. This guy has nothing to give and has not done anything to be proud of. Wake up! Unless you want to be taxed to the gills and depend on the hand-outs of government. If you want to live the 'American' dream, work for it.

  • Asadh October 08, 2008 3:46 am

    No need to attack Anita, she is telling the facts whether you like it or nor. What I see tonight's debate McCain should not be elected for President of United state. When you start calling you opponent "that one" shows no respect at all. Obama has class, knowledge and skill to be the next President of United State. No presidential candidate ever rise as much money from average American, connects people, and use technology to do so then Senator Barack Obama. If the only thing that you appose is the color of his skin, then you have not grow-up since high school. This is 21the century, the color of your skin should no longer matter, the leadership you poses and the knowledge you earn should matter. Wake up losers and the smell the coffee. The Gun laws is no longer the matter, it is the economy stupid.

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