The $1 Billion Question: Can Obama Carry NC in 2012? The images in the campaign kickoff video disclose strategy

by johndavis, April 6, 2011

[audio:|titles=April 6 Billion Question] “I don’t agree with Obama on everything, but I respect him and I trust him.” “Ed from North Carolina,” featured in President Obama’s re-election kickoff video, Monday, April 4, 2011 Obama’s 2012 Campaign Strategy Disclosed in Video Released Monday Shhhhhhhhhhh.  If you want to get the inside scoop on Obama’s 2012

[audio:|titles=April 6 Billion Question]

“I don’t agree with Obama on everything, but I respect him and I trust him.”

“Ed from North Carolina,” featured in President Obama’s re-election kickoff video, Monday, April 4, 2011

Obama’s 2012 Campaign Strategy Disclosed in Video Released Monday

Shhhhhhhhhhh.  If you want to get the inside scoop on Obama’s 2012 campaign strategy, watch his kickoff video with the sound turned down.  The images say it all:  a farm, a church, a middle-income neighborhood, an American flag, Ed from North Carolina sitting on his front porch saying, “I don’t agree with Obama on everything, but I respect him and I trust him.” And then there are the mountains out West, a Hispanic family in the kitchen of their home, Obama speaking at a 2008 rally, a TV image of Fox News projecting Obama the winner of the 2008 Iowa Caucuses, lots of young people attending volunteer meetings, volunteers registering new voters, canvassing door-to-door for support, and making voter turnout calls from a phone bank.

The Obama campaign kickoff video, released Monday, ends with the theme: It begins with us.

Strategically, it looks like the 2008 massive ground game again.  But there’s one thing missing: enthusiastic volunteers.  Barack Obama was one of the most inspirational presidential contenders in U.S. history, especially for the 18-29 year-olds who volunteered by the millions to do the hard work of registering voters; volunteers who turned out record numbers of voters on Election Day.

However, in 2009 we discovered that those enthusiastic Obama voters were not loyal Democrats when their failure to turn out led to the defeat of the Democratic gubernatorial candidates in Virginia and New Jersey.  Again, in January 2010, a low turnout of Obama voters led to the shocking loss of Ted Kennedy’s seat to Republican Scott Brown in Massachusetts, and a devastating "shellacking" of Democrats last fall throughout the country.

So, why are the Obama strategists introducing their 2012 campaign for re-election with a video that suggests another ground game? The answer is in a dollar figure: $1 billion, the fund-raising goal for the 2012 race.  You can buy a whole bunch of enthusiastic workers with $1 billion.

But, Can Obama Raise $1 Billion?  “Ummm, this ain’t rocket surgery folks.”

President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign for the White House was a spectacular event.  Using his skills honed as an inner city community organizer in Chicago, he won the race with 7 million more popular votes than any candidate in the history of presidential politics, employing 6,000 staffers who managed an all-volunteer army of 13 million enthusiastic workers.

Obama paid for his historic 2008 campaign by raising a $745 million campaign war chest, staggering when compared to the mere $368 million raised by the McCain camp; staggering when you consider that $500 million was raised online, most in increments of $100 or less.

David Plouffe, President Obama's 2008 campaign manager, revealed their strategic secrets in his book The Audacity to Win.  He tells the story of how a startup group of rag tag recruits defeated the dream teams of both the Democrats and the Republicans with a once-in-a-lifetime-candidate, a single powerful message, “Change,” and a website used to organize and communicate with staff and volunteers.  Oh, also, a website used to raise money unlike any campaign.

In September 2008 alone, the Obama campaign raised $150 million; $100 million of that had been raised online as a result of 10 fund-raising e-mails.  "There were times when we were raising $250,000, $300,000, even $500,000 an hour,"[1]wrote Plouffe.

The reason Obama launched his campaign on Monday, April 4, is that by filing papers with the Federal Election Commission he is now allowed to raise money.  A New York Times story on Monday titled, Obama Opens 2012 Campaign, With Eye on Money and Independent Voters, says Obama, “… is preparing to undertake the most ambitious fund-raising effort by a sitting president.”  What will the money be used for?  “The money will not be used for television ads – this year, at least – but rather to hire an army of workers to begin organizing supporters.”

There you have it, a massive ground game.  Obama’s role?  Run the country and raise money.

Can Obama raise $1 billion?  Well, he is starting early, he is the sitting President of the United States, he raised $745 million in 2008, and he is committed to the most ambitious fund-raising effort ever.  As my favorite uncle once said, “This ain’t rocket surgery folks.”

We made ourselves unbeatable in North Carolina

Throughout the primary, the Obama campaign defied conventional wisdom by targeting those least likely to vote … like younger white voters, independents, newly registered African-American voters, and African-American voters who had voted sporadically in the past.

In North Carolina, they invested heavily in early turnout of non-habitual voters with radio and Internet ads pushing early voting.  They also sent e-mail and text messages to tens of thousands urging early voting; they called tens of thousands more and sent volunteers door-to-door.

On May 6, 2008, Primary Election Day exit polling here in North Carolina was so conclusive that the moment the polls closed the national networks declared Obama the winner over Clinton.

Plouffe recalls the 14-point blowout in his book this way:  “As the returns came in, we could see the traces of our strategy’s design: by registering over 100,000 new voters, producing strong turnout among African-Americans and young voters, and winning college-educated whites thanks to our stand against the gas tax, we made ourselves unbeatable in North Carolina."[2]

Obama’s strategy for carrying North Carolina in November of 2008 was as unconventional as that of the May Primary Election.  He knew he could not defeat a Republican presidential nominee in the Old North State with TV ads, no matter how much money he spent.  His only hope was a massive ground game, registering and turning out non-traditional voters.

To carry out the unconventional strategy, the Obama campaign opened 47 headquarters in North Carolina and hired over 400 paid staff.  These young professionals were responsible for a record early voting total of 2.6 million (only 984,000 voted early in 2004), more voters than on Election Day.  Seven out of 10 of the early voters were either Democrats (51%) or Unaffiliated (19%).  African Americans comprised 28% of early voters, as compared to only 19% in 2004.

When the dust settled after Election Day, Obama had won North Carolina.  For the first time since 1960, North Carolina had elected Democratic sweep to the White House, the Governor’s Mansion and the U.S. Senate in the same election year.  An unconventional strategy produced an equally unconventional result: the first African American president, the first woman governor, and the first Democratic woman to represent the state in the U.S. Senate.

The $1 Billion Question: Can Obama Carry NC in 2012?

All of this brings me to the $1 billion question: Can Obama carry NC in 2012?

To answer that question, I need to remind you of this: John McCain was a weak nominee, too old and too boring; associated with one of the most unpopular presidents in U.S. history, and who blundered mightily by waiting until the last month to campaign in North Carolina.

If Republicans make that same mistake again, the answer is “yes,” Obama will surely invest a competitive amount of his $1 billion war chest in winning North Carolina and can surely win again with his unconventional ground game.  Slight gains in the nation’s economic condition are beginning to be reported.  If the economic trajectory is consistently upward, even if ever so slight, Obama’s job approval will return to 50% and he will win another term.

However, if Republicans field a strong presidential nominee … one who inspires the generosity of Republican donors and raises a conservative army of enthusiastic volunteers who will do the hard work of winning campaigns like registering and turning out voters, then the answer is “no,” Obama will not likely carry North Carolina again … even if he wins a second term handily.

Obama won North Carolina with only 14,177 out of 4.3 million.  He did everything right and his opponent did everything wrong.  The odds are that will not happen again.

- END -

[1] The Audacity to Win, by David Plouffe, Campaign Manager for Obama for America, page 327.

[2] The Audacity to Win, page 229.

Please subscribe to the John Davis Political Report for the 2011-2012 election cycle.  The Premium subscription is $485 a year.  Subscribe online today at

The Advantage subscription is $4,850 per year.  This subscription covers the John Davis Political Report with unlimited distribution rights to your employees or trade association members, along with private political briefings for you, your employees and leadership team, all conducted personally by me at your offices or conference locations.  Call me if you are interested and I will come visit with you: 919-696-3859.


John N. Davis, President

Comments are closed.