Some Campaign Observations

by: Matt Stoller

Sat Jan 26, 2008 at 18:18

( - promoted by Chris Bowers)

So I've had a few interesting conversations with local politicos here, and I'm getting something of a fuller picture.  The Clinton operation, which I blogged about over the past few days as low energy, didn't really have much national support.  Obama's people had been organizing and cleaning lists since August, building an organization with real leadership and a genuine organizing base.  I hear they had something on the order of 2000-4000 volunteers along with 100-200 paid staff, though those numbers are guesses from professional political people in South Carolina, so take that with a grain of salt.

The Clinton campaign did not have anything close to that, having spent its time organizing in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada.  And unions were just not a factor, which changes the playing field.  While there's substantial media control over both campaigns, it's especially bad in the Clinton shop.  Organizing takes time and focus, and they are doing things by committee which allows for neither.  I don't have good evidence on Obama, but I do know that they had a great organization here.  If the Clinton's win the primary, get ready for a rehash of Kerry 2.0, with poor planning and decision-making across the board as long as Mark Penn is involved.

And now to the exit polls.  What I find interesting is the magnitude of the win.  Obama didn't just win among young people, he won among weird groups.  For instance, among people who thought that Clinton attacked him unfairly, he pretty much cleaned up, which is not a surprise.  But he even won among people who thought that he unfairly attacked Clinton.  And he won both among those who thought Bill Clinton's campaigning was important, and those who didn't, though it appears he did better among those who ignored the Big Dog.

And Obama performed very well among liberals, a large chunk of the South Carolina primary universe, which was simply huge and bigger than the Republican universe.

Obama's victory speech is here.  The question is what kind of bounce Obama gets from this.  This was an organizational win for him, and he has staff out on many of the February 5th states, building out campaign structures to accept volunteer energy.  Clinton is more media focused.

I'll be hoovering up more information over the next few days, since the margin was larger than I expected and certainly not what the polls indicated.  Indeed the polls were as wrong as they were in New Hampshire, and though I don't buy the reverse Wilder effect, something is going on that I'm going to speculate on in a few days.  Obama was simply dominant tonight, but I think a lot of that had to do with Clinton not even trying to compete.  I give the edge to Clinton still for the nomination but again, the question is bounce.

Matt Stoller :: Some Campaign Observations

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bounce (4.00 / 1)
I think that, provided the media narrative is not focused on the racial divide, Obama should get a bounce from this victory.

The bounce will be mild, however, because the victory will only get 2 days in the news (and only the one day in the news cycle).

The next debate and the FL results (even without delegates) are likely to shape the remained of the news cycle next week.

Give me a break (0.00 / 0)
Obama's whole pay structure is Kerry-esque.

She had a great organization in Nevada in NH but he wins SC with 80% of the AA vote and Clinton is the one with the organizational structure problem and is going to be like Kerry? Give me a break.

Enjoy this win because I have no doubt it will be Obama's last blast.

The lines have been drawn.

Re: (4.00 / 1)
If you win 2-1, you're going to win pretty much all the subgroups, so there's only so much analysis to be done.

I get the sense that the Clinton campaign decided after NV that they really didn't have a chance to win this state, but that they had to make enough of a show out of it so that it didn't look like they were disrespecting African-Americans by not even asking for their vote in SC.  Possibly if they had tried a little harder they could have kept the margin lower and denied some of this momentum.  But I think the bottom line is that Obama really closed the deal.

agreed (4.00 / 1)
I have to agree with Steve M on this one.  The Clinton campaign  has shown great organization when they needed it.  However, it takes a huge amount of resources for an all out push in a state, not only by the Clinton campaign, but by its supporters.  AFSCME threw huge amounts of paid staff into Nevada, and huge numbers of Clinton staff and volunteers went from New York to New Hampshire.

I think the Clinton campaign recognized that (a) even with an all out push, they probably wouldn't win SC anyway, and (b) they were therefore better off saving their money and resources for use elsewhere.  Even Hillary's brief visits to other states during this week paid some dividends.

No campaign will be able to repeat on Feb. 5 the kinds of on-the-ground organizing that took place in the early states.  There, the role of media will become more prominent, and on-the-ground organizing less so.

[ Parent ]
On the ground.... (4.00 / 1)
No campaign will be able to repeat on Feb. 5 the kinds of on-the-ground organizing that took place in the early states.  There, the role of media will become more prominent, and on-the-ground organizing less so.

****Clearing throat**** You, Sir are forgetting about the Grassroots. And the grassroots has been mobilizing clear across the US for Barack with very little help from the ground organizations.

The role of the media will be the 30 second ads that people see or the mailers coming to their homes. BUT, the grassroots will be standing outside the supermarkets, post offices and on the corner and they are going to reach people one on one. They will be calling homes of voters in their area, asking for the vote.

I believe that is much more effective than media.

When you add the Union support to that Grassroots - it does not become less prominent acutally it does the opposite.

If not NOW, when?

[ Parent ]
Polling was off? (0.00 / 0)
I'm looking at the averages and it isn't really all that off is it?

Kucinich <1%
Edwards 17%
Clinton 28.5%
Obama 43.1%

Nailed everything rather well except for Obama who just picked up all the overflow.

John McCain opposes the GI Bill.

Um (4.00 / 1)
Since when is 43% close to 55%?

[ Parent ]
you must be reading impaired or don't understand what the word, "overflow" (0.00 / 0)

For some reason, it seems that Obama has some pathological and deep-seated psychological need for Republicans to like him.  Seriously.  It's weird.

[ Parent ]
yes, pardon me (0.00 / 0)
the polling showing that Obama had on average 43%, and that he somehow managed to pull in every single "overflow" vote, was simply wonderful.

[ Parent ]
Blah, blah (4.00 / 1)
we believe...we will fight...we will win.

Exit poll questions on one page at MSNBC (0.00 / 0)
Here.  Sorry, but CNN making me click through multiple pages to compare numbers from different questions is the sort of unnecessary complication in web design that annoys me.

I wish they had divided more data than just age along racial lines.  I'd be interested in seeing things like if blacks and whites differ on which issue they think is most important.

Edwards' strength continues to be among whites who are more conservative and older than other Democrats, and who aren't even necessarily Democrats.  One might think that his campaign would have been more successful if he had focused on claiming that his opponents were unelectable, but the piss-poor state of the GOP made that a bit difficult of a case to make.

Things You Don't Talk About in Polite Company: Religion, Politics, the Occasional Intersection of Both

Wow - you just ignore Bill's Jessie Jackson's comment! (2.00 / 2)
Why are you ignoring Bill Clinton's racist rant this morning saying that Obama won because he was black?

If a Republican did that they would be screaming all day long!

I guess racism from a Democrat can be ignored but racism from a Republican can't.

well ... (4.00 / 2)
Is not what Clinton said true?

If you eliminate African Americans from the exit polling the Barack Obama places third so he clearly won on the strength of the African American vote.

Jesse Jackson won on the strength of the African American vote.

Why is this racist?

[ Parent ]
Well . . . (4.00 / 2)
Is not what Clinton said true?

If you eliminate African Americans from the exit polling the Barack Obama places third so he clearly won on the strength of the African American vote.

It may be true, but it is also racist dog whistle politics.

If you exclude the female vote, Hillary would have come in third.

If you exclude the white male vote, no Republican would ever win anything.

Winning coalitions are made up of different ethnic, gender, and demographic groups -- winners bring them together, losers complain that they would have won, except for the participation of "those" people.

Bill Clinton's behavior is shameful, and his exclusion of African Americans is a disgrace.

Remember -- without the African American vote, Bill Clinton would have never won anything anywhere.

Bill Clinton is a disgrace.

[ Parent ]
rabid (4.00 / 1)
Man you are rabid.

Obama won 80% of the African American vote, he won 25% of the non-African American vote in a primary where 55% of the voters were African American ... is it not obvious that Obama won on the strength of the African American vote?

Did Jesse Jackson not likewise win SC on the strength of the African American vote?

Trying to change the frame of the argument and then crying racism does no service to you or your candidate.

[ Parent ]
Obama Won Every Democraphic But One (4.00 / 1)
If you eliminate white people under the age of 45, it hurts Obama too. Obama won every demographic except for whites over 45. So, the idea that he only won because black people voted in droves is simply incorrect.

Also, if he did win on the strength of the African American vote, *good.*

[ Parent ]
jesse jackson (4.00 / 1)
The point of my post was that both Obama and Jesse Jackson won on the strength of the African American vote.

I am not saying there is anything wrong with that. I am just saying that's the reality and because Bill Clinton voices the expectation of this reality you call him a racist.

It's just like the MLK comments. People called Hillary Clinton a racist and even the people who marched with MLK said what she said fine.

[ Parent ]
True, But So? (0.00 / 0)
Bill Clinton's comment about Jesse Jackson winning South Carolina was in response to a question that had nothing to do with South Carolina or Jesse Jackson.

It was pretty clear to me to be an attempt to focus on race for no good reason other than that it would help to discredit Obama in the minds of some voters.

[ Parent ]
Here's Some Context (0.00 / 0)

At the bottom is the video of the reporter asking the question. The question has absolutely nothing to do with Jesse Jackson, South Carolina, or race. Bill Clinton just kind of throws the Jesse Jackson comparison out there for no good reason other than to inject race into the conversation.

[ Parent ]
Except He Didn't (0.00 / 0)
Jesse Jackson did not win on the African-American vote. Check out the actual data. He won on a combination of his favorite son advantage, and S.C. was a caucus then, and caucuses are more affected by an excellent mobilization program, which Jackson had. S.C. also was not an early state then. It was basically inconsequential

So really, the elections are completely different. The only thing similar about them was that the winner was black. So, why bring it up?

[ Parent ]
No, its not really true - (4.00 / 1)
Jessie won a caucus twice Obama won an election -

Jessie got between 5 - 10% of the white vote Obama got 25%

Don't know Jessie's vote total but doubt it was 2x the nearest opponent -

Bill's goal was to say Obama won because black folks voted for a black. His win was no big deal and to be expected after all "those people" always vote for each other.  Surprised he didn't talk about "block voting".

Bills' statement was racist - plain and simple.

If a Republican said it folks would be flipping out but because its the Billary show its ok.

[ Parent ]
mmm .... (4.00 / 1)
Firstly, only this part of your post is salient ...

Bill's goal was to say Obama won because black folks voted for a black.

Is this not what happened in NV and SC? African American voters voted (or caucused) disproportionately in favor of an African American candidate.

So what are you saying? That by sheer coincidence African American voters happen to prefer an African American candidate or what?

[ Parent ]
WHY did Bill say it? (0.00 / 0)
Ask yourself why Bill Clinton compared this victory Jackson's.  Answer honestly.

[ Parent ]
Re: (4.00 / 2)
"racist rant."  And these are the WINNERS talking.

[ Parent ]
Enjoying yer 'Identity Politics'.... (0.00 / 0)
[ Parent ]
Jesse Jackson's SC victories (0.00 / 0)
TPM has the details


[ Parent ]
How to Beat Hill & Bill: (0.00 / 0)
If Obama and Edwards joined forces, with Edwards in Veep, I think they'd win the whole enchilada. 

I'd be totally stoked.  This nation is sick and needs repair.  They'd be a great one-two punch.

I think Bill has over-played his hand.  Voters are remembering  how the Monica years were a total waste. They're wondering, "What kind of embarrassing crap are we going to have to deal with this time?"  Even if you are sympathetic to Hilary, you have to be concerned about the cost of this guy's outbursts and shenanigans dominating tabloid media for the next four years.

Just callin' it how I feel,


USA: 1950 to 2010

Same line over and over (0.00 / 0)
This is the same line used by every Obamfan the last week.

And it doesn't account for the fact she is still well-positioned in Florida and Feb. 5 no matter how much you want Bill Clinton to be Satan. He is still extremely popular.

Obama won with a huge AA turnout. If I was an African American and saw all the coverage in NH about the "Bradley effect," and then the coverage in Nevada about Latinos not voting for an AA, and then the whole MLK flap (which I blame on Obama's teams but it cuts bith ways), I'd be pissed and rally around Obama.

Race played a huge role.

Obama is not going to have the SC advantages in Florida and Feb 5. He may get a bounce, but even his post Iowa bounce he was showing a tie in some polls or still slightly behind nationally. Not great news...

I'd take Hillary's position over Obama's any day...

[ Parent ]
Florida? (0.00 / 0)
Florida means nothing.  This ain't Calvinball.

[ Parent ]
Link? (0.00 / 0)

I tried follow your link but couldn't find what you were referencing.  Also tried to search Kos but no luck.  Could you type out a link here or send me a note
vbstope (at) gmail? 

I'm interested.

USA: 1950 to 2010

[ Parent ]
oops (0.00 / 0)
Embarassing.  I was just being really, really snarky and referencing this post.  Sorry it's not some brilliant insight =P


[ Parent ]
This should have been expected (4.00 / 1)
I doubt few people thought Obama wouldn't win by a large margin. The coronation going on in the press, though, is absolutely ridiculous. I've posted this a couple other places, but will also remind people here. Jesse Jackson won South Carolina with 55% in 1988, the same as Obama's percentage. (Jesse ended up winning 11 states, something Obama is not yet close to doing. When is the press going to get off it's phony historical story and look at the facts). The demographics of SC are very different than the rest of the country. It was always Obama's state to lose. I doubt it has much effect on the rest of the primaries.

Re: (0.00 / 0)
Jesse Jackson was born in South Carolina.  Just sayin'

[ Parent ]
at the same time (4.00 / 2)
The last Dem to win SC twice was Bill Clinton, and if anyone has *his* 1992 exit poll data, well, that'd be of interest.

To claim ""Clinton not even trying to compete" is to concede the game.  Bill was there all well.  They ran heavy ads.  Hell, they even pushed negative robocalls against Edwards Friday night.  That's trying to compete.

[ Parent ]
speaking of winning SC (4.00 / 2)
Clinton received 77% of the black vote in SC in 1992.

3-4-92 NYT: "A poll by Voter Research and Surveys suggested that Mr. Clinton won the backing of almost three-quarters of the black voters in the Georgia primary, a good augury for him in the days ahead, because the black vote has become indispensable to victory for Democrats in the South. He also won two-thirds of the black vote in Maryland."

[ Parent ]
look at total votes (0.00 / 0)
look at raw numbers...turnout of blacks. I think that you will see a difference.

[ Parent ]
Competition (4.00 / 4)
Matt --

You say that "Obama was simply dominant tonight, but I think a lot of that had to do with Clinton not even trying to compete".

Isn't sending the last Democratic President to campaign non-stop in a scorched-earth manner for at least a week "competing"?

Hillary competed in Michigan where no other candidate competed, and after she got votes there (but lost the African-American vote to, well, nobody) she dragged in the results of that election before the national media like a dog drags in a smelly dead squirrel and said "look what I found -- give me attention". 

Now she's trying to distract the national press from the 2 to 1 drubbing she received tonight, by saying "Pay no mind to the 150,000 vote margin by which a black candidate beat me in Strom Thurmond's home state (the one in which the Civil War started), and never mind that half of the young white voters in this former heart of the Confederacy voted for the African-American candidate, I might win a meaningless primary in Florida based on name recognition from my husband's time in office". 

You know, I won the caucuses in my house tonight, and I think the national press should pay attention to it even though no other candidate competed.  And I didn't even need a former President campaigning for me to win my house caucuses (and I didn't need to Shaheen anyone).

But maybe you're right and we should pay more attention to states where Hillary can put her message out without the complication of . . . competition, to see whether she's a viable candidate.  After all, it's not fair to judge her in contests where she has actual opposition, and we should judge her in a one-candidate field since that's how the November race will likely shape up.

Voter Genome Project

Expanding the playing field (4.00 / 1)
It seems that the reason the polls were wrong, and the reason he won by such a large margin is because a lot of people turned out to vote that weren't expected to show up.  All of the polling is based on expected voters.  Prior to the election I found high-end estimates of voter turn-out pegged at 350,000 voters.  That was way off. 

Obama has been building momentum in South Carolina for months.  Remember Oprah?  Remember the largest call-bank in primary history? 

People who have never voted have been hosting house parties in South Carolina.

While, as an Obama supporter, I am excited about the win, I have my doubts about whether the campaign has done anything close to this type of preparation in other states.  I just don't think that the grass roots movement is going to take hold in two weeks in 22 states.  I live in Massachusetts and the Obama campaign is just starting to focus here.  Voter registration closed a week ago so there is no room to bring out the new voters that we saw in Iowa and S. Carolina.

Colorado (0.00 / 0)
the Obama campaign seems damn organized in Colorado (and really fired).  I don't about Clinton campaign here, it could be just as much.  But it is interesting that a very conservative town, Colorado Springs, the dems are getting a lot of folks coming out to support Obama

[ Parent ]
I meant (0.00 / 0)
really "fired up".....sigh

[ Parent ]
This is what's bothering me (4.00 / 2)
  The Clinton campaign's overt playing of the race card could be extremely damaging to the Democrats in the long run. If Hillary wins the nomination, she will have alienated a sector of the Democratic voter base which has, in the past, showed staunch loyalty to the Clinton brand. And that will make the general campaign that much more difficult -- Hillary's going to have to spend time and resources mending fences with African-American voters, something which would have been inconceivable six months ago, or even one month ago.

  My problem with the Clinton campaign is that I've always gotten the vibe from them that this is all about what's best for Hillary Clinton, not about what's best for America or waht's best for the Democratic Party. And the Clintons' behavior in SC puts an exclamation point behind that.

"We judge ourselves by our ideals; others by their actions. It is a great convenience." -- Howard Zinn

Great Staff Work (0.00 / 0)
It was that self-same great staff work & boots on the ground by Obama's peeps and poor work by Clinton's that led to the unanticipated results in New Hampshire one supposes?

Doc Rock

hope and momentum (0.00 / 0)
Momentum is important to Obama's base. It helps spur turnout of folks who don't always vote in primaries. 2 to 1! A 30 point victory validates those of us in the hinterlands and boosts momentum, fund raising, phonebaking, volunteerism, etc. Like it not, he has build a national organization via the internet, and we are willing and able to help and waiting for our state and neighboring states to vote.

It is definitely still a long shot but with the media/press in our camp and the more and more likely scenario that blacks will turnout in HUGE numbers things are looking up.

(I think that people forget that African Americans are already registered to vote...if they turn out in larger than usual numbers they have some power to weld. We will see.)

Expect some bipartisan love from Bush (0.00 / 0)
Oh man, the economy is so jacked. Bush's stimulus package was about as effective as Brownie the FEMA crony at dealing with that other crisis.
Expect alot of bipartisan talk about the stimpak to spread responsiblity for its failure over the Democrats.
That's going to somewhat cut  W's ability to demonize the Dems for not giving him FISA/telecom cart blanche.

[ Parent ]
Wow all the Clintonistas are out in this thread! (0.00 / 0)
Must be because she tells everyone Matt said she is "digby-esk"
Still thank that Matt?....LOL

Several of the posters here aren't in support of Clinton (0.00 / 0)
but don't let that stop you.

[ Parent ]
Can't imagine it would stop anyone (0.00 / 0)
since that claim wasn't made in the comment.

John McCain opposes the GI Bill.

[ Parent ]
Obamanistas, Edwardsanistas (0.00 / 0)
Kucinichinistas, etc.

[ Parent ]
Sorry left out something (0.00 / 0)
Must be because TAYLOR MARSH tells everyone, Matt says she is "digby-esque"....LOL

surprising margin (0.00 / 0)
Obama certainly beat clinton tonight.

One interesting thing to look at is that NH clinton had a famous organizer and in Nevada she had afcsme.

So it might just be that her organizing victories have very little to do with her own campaign.

I think a good question would be to ask if she can rely on similar organizations or people for any of the Feb 5th states?

My opinion is Obamas main problem right now is that he can't get cocky again.  If he does he loses.

Moving to a national campaign (0.00 / 0)
If the Clinton's win the primary, get ready for a rehash of Kerry 2.0, with poor planning and decision-making across the board as long as Mark Penn is involved.

I'm afraid that's simply what a national campaign looks like to the foot soldiers from the ground level. What you are describing is that business-as-usual candidates and their consultants think field (democracy) is an expensive nuisance with a low return for the dollar. Unless they can enthuse huge numbers of people, they may even be making a rational calculation.

Clearly Obama can enthuse many with a generational-aspirational appeal. That's his asset -- and now he has won the hopes of African Americans for a significant base. Clinton will simply be trying to ride a less unexpected, but real, force -- the disproportionate, heavily Democratic turnout of women. They'll apply different stimuli to their respective bases.

Oddly enough, despite the insane amount that will be expended, Clinton's base is probably cheaper to turnout ...

An observation, not an endorsement.

Can it happen here?

Polls, money, votes, In-Your-Face New York Times (4.00 / 1)


18-29 -- 67%
30-44 -- 62%
45-59 -- 55%

Non-Black 18-29 -- 52%

white 18-29 -- 49%

Black 30-44 -- 82%


A Quick Fundraising Spike Online

[ money was pouring in at the rate of more than $500,000 per hour.]


My message this morning to the NYT regarding their endorsement of Hillary Clinton.

In-your-face New York Times, you lachey of the establishment. Too many damn old folks on your editorial board, no wonder you can't sell this paper anymore.  :-)

Hey guys, do you like apples?

Well Barack Obama blew Hillary Clinton away in South Carolina.

How do you like them apples?  :-)

Obama: new paradigm?? (4.00 / 1)
Something is going on and I look forward to reading what you have to say Matt.  My thoughts are still unformed on this but i think it has something to do with this:  when the current institutional structure of american electoral politics is predominant, Clinton wins.  When Obama can shift the institutional structure, or tweak it to his advantage, he wins.  Basically, the more elections and caucuses (their overall structure, rules and norms) resemble the type of battles and interest groups the Clintons have been navigating since the early 90's, they win.  When those structures gets disrupted, Obama cleans up. 

Iowa and South Carolina were just weird, abnormalities compared to other elections over the past couple decades. And when things get weird and stop looking like the politics we've been accustomed to, Obama wins.

Going forward, Obama needs to continue shift the institutional structure if he wants to win.  More importantly, that's exactly what he'll need to do if he wants to govern effectively if elected.  Under the current rules of american politics, he will get crushed by the right wing and be the next Carter as the coming economic gloom and doom is laid firmly at the feet of the inexperienced young black president.  Not encouraging.  Then again, if he can shift the current rules of american politics while running for president (bringing in new voters, progressive democrat as media goldenboy), maybe he can do it if he is president. 

Obama won this primary. (0.00 / 0)
This says a lot about this primary. The details are being parsed through a lot of different prisms that all support foregone conclusions of the observer, nothing more.

The previous caucuses/primaries have had different results, and the match-ups are in no way definitive for the whole nomination process, they are merely glimpses.

Obama doesn't just have ground troops (0.00 / 0)
in "some" of those Feb. 5th states. He has them in every one and some of them have been there for over a month if not longer. He has been organizing on the ground in areas that Democrats usually ignore. This is how to win. Obama's building the coalition...that's just how it works. And yes, Obama's organization is better and more solid - and more effective...and you are indeed right about the Kerry 2.0 problem of the Clinton campaign. I almost feel for them...but then I remember that my guy is winning...and that he'll continue to win...and that he'll win well in the general using the organization methods that work.

Probably ends up Obama in Colorado (0.00 / 0)
The only poll so far just came out, showing a tie (well within sampling error). Given the pattern of enthusiastic turnout in the primaries so far, that has to favor Obama.


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