Special Feature

How and Why Obama Won

In my recent article, US Presidential Election 2012: WhoWill Win? I pointed out that the campaign with the greater turnout on Election Daywill win. Turnout is the key. In this piece, I will endeavor to show how the Obama team achieved this goal. Obama is the first US President since Franklin D. Roosevelt to win re-election with a failed economic record.

As stated before, historically the economy decides US presidential elections.  The American people vote with their pocketbooks. Under the Obama administration, the economy experienced a downturn inherited from George Bush. Under Obama, unemployment increased from7.2% in 2008 to 7.9% in October 2012. But the rate has been declining slowly from8.1% in August. The GDP has increased 2%, more than economists and analysts have expected.  Private sector jobs have grown for 32 conservative months, while experiencing more job loss including decline in government employment. 

Despite the slow improvement, the Republican Party under Mitt Romney candidacy structured to defeat Obama based on the economy.  Romney argued that Obama failed the promise to decrease unemployment and create more jobs. He asked the American people if they were better off than four years ago. This was a good question because really the American people were not economically better off under Obama.

This approach had worked in the 1980 election when Ronald Reagan defeated incumbent Carter, a democrat.  Thus the economy was key weapon of the Romney campaign for victory. The economy was their battle cry, a referendum. They spent millions of dollars in advertisements and organizationto win. But why they did lose?

The Obama campaign had a better and advanced ground organization. They utilized what some analysts   can call mathematical – scientific targeting method. They divided the electorates into state and demographic categories. They identified nine states particularly located in the battleground, dis-regarding states historically considered solid democratic and states heavily republican.  Ohio was the center of concentration.  Ohio was selected because Kerry lost in the2004 election to George Bush due to Ohio. Secondly they identified four demographic groups, namely the African American; the Latino; the youth and the women, particularly single women.

They targeted each group, visiting them, obtaining information of their areas of concern, interest, etc. They talked to them at home, and anywhere possible. They then computerized the information, analyzed and tested the data, made necessary adjustment and kept in touch with the groups by calling and mailing communication, including Obama campaign literature. They made sure that their target groups were registered to vote. They were aware that the Latino population was growing rapidly. About 15,000 young Latinos turn eighteen each month. Voting age is 18. Newly naturalized Latinos and others were registered to vote.  This ground organization started about 18 months before commencement of the election campaign. In fact, the Ohio democratic offices over 100 were structured approximately four years ago. These offices were located in democratic zones. When the campaign started about two years ago, the offices and those in other states were ready into action. Note that the democrats did not have a primary. Therefore the party did not spend money for primary efforts.

The democratic campaign team was also cognizant of the fact that young people, especially college students, do not usually vote, though they may show enthusiasm.

The organization put in place a mechanism, which enabled them to get to the voting places on Election Day. For instance, during the early election and on Election Day, buses took students to the polling places. The campaign also took their names and contact information for future campaign purposes. According to report, the Romney team did nothing like this, though it also had aground organization.  As one commentator pointed out, it looked at the large number of rally attendees rather than hard data. The Obama ground organization was far ahead of the Romney team; and it looked beyond rally crowd. The Obama organization included the trade unions. This group was aggressively active by constantly calling, knocking on doors of union workers, families and others to vote. As Leo Gerard of the United Steel Union stated, the union team talked to individuals on the buses and other places to vote for Obama. They had 17000 members making millions of calls to likely voters in the last two weeks of the election. They and the main ground organization had hundreds of lawyers on board to challenge election lawviolations.

For example, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, a republican, attempted to stop early voting in the state. Husted took the matter before the US Supreme Court, which refused to hear the case and therefore allowed early voting to continue. Early voting benefitted the democrats. Moreover, in Florida and Pennsylvania the lawyers filed court papers challenging voting violations. They won.

On Election Day the ground team called the target groups, knocked on doors and provided transportation assistance if necessary to get the groups to polling sites. The group turnout was great, greater than that of Romney campaign. There were long lines of voters. The team also text their groups to stay in line as some voting places were near closing. African American church and civil groups provided assistance to members for early voting. Rev Al Sharpton and others were on the ground encouraging communities to get out the votes.

The republican strategists apparently did not see the writing on the wall, for either they were over confident or blind. They disregarded public polls. They wasted millions of advertising dollars advertising in useless and expended markets such as Pennsylvania. Karl Rove, a leading republican election operation guru, predicated that Romney will not only win, but will win big, over 300 electorate votes. Rove is credited for Bush 2004 victory. His PAC, Crossroad America, was given and spent $175 million for Romney election.  Up to Election Day, Romney was sure of winning. He had written a victory speech on Election Day and prepared for fireworks in Boston. He was shocked as the votes came in showing him losing. He refused to concede until early morning after 12 AM.  But there were more to the democratic ground organization.

In addition to the ground organization, several events helped the Obama campaign:  The auto bailout, Bill Clinton’s address, the 47% video tape, and Hurricane Sandy.

The Obama administration bailed out the auto industry, which was in a serious financial condition. The bailout enabled the industry to keep operation and thereby stopping possible layoff or termination of workers. Romney wrote an article opposing the bailout. The auto workers in the region, including Ohio, did not forget Obama during the election.  About 60% of the voters from the auto industrial belt appreciated the bailout and voted for Obama.

Bill Clinton made a compelling case for Obama at the Democratic Convention. He told fellow democrats and the American public that the failed economy inherited from the Bush administration would take more than four years to fix. Therefore Obama should be given four more years to resolve the problem. Moreover, he stated the plan Obama had put in place is now working, pointing out constant job growth in the private sector.

His plead worked. Obamagot a significant bounce in the polls. The election results showed that 53% of the voters blamed the economic slowdown on Bush.

In September during the campaign, a secret video tape of Romney surfaced. It showed Romney talking to some rich people at a private fundraising function, stating that 47% of Americans live on government benefits, entitlements, including food stamps.

Romney stated, according to the tape, that these Americans should be disregarded because they will not vote for republicans.  The various networks or media aired the video. Romney’s poll went down; Obama went up in the polls.   

In the last week of the campaign, super-storm Sandy occurred.  As written before, the hurricane destroyed properties and caused the death of over 100 people in many states, especially New Jersey and New York. It was the most destructive storm for the area. Obama stopped campaigning for two days and visited New Jersey to render assistance. He looked presidential.  Americans saw him as a leader who cares. One of his critics, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a republican, praised him for caring and for showing leadership. According to election results, 81% of the voters considered Obama as a leader who cares.

The ground organization was connected to the advertising and the fundraising sections of the campaign. The team did not advertise heavily in every state. Major advertisements were in the target area. The campaign had defined Romney as a flip flopper, changing his position on issue. Where is the real Romney? They asked in their AD. The ground team had collected data knowing the TV stations or channels which their target group watched. The campaign advertised on these TV stations. The organization had its own internal polling team, which conducted polls to know how they were doing with their target groups. Furthermore, the campaign got lots of their fundraising dollars from the groups. Together, both Obama and the Romney campaigns spent over one billion dollars in advertising. Most of the money came from private donors.  Obama received more than Romney.

To know that the ground organization was working, battle ground polls, which outside firms conducted, showed Obama leading in almost all battle ground states throughout the campaign. These polls were consistence. Results of the ground organization on Election Day were: Obama received 71% of the Latinovote, 55% of the women vote, 60% of the youth vote and 93% of the African-American vote, which surpassed that of 2008.

Obama received the greater turnout. He won not only the electorate votes; he also surprisingly won the popular votes. He won all of the swing states except North Carolina. Ohio put Obama on top, receiving more than the required 270 electorate votes. He got a total of 332; Romney received 206.

The mathematical – scientific target method implored surely worked, though the method was tedious and involved advanced planning.  It was a fascinating and progressive coalition. Not only Obama was elected, more women were elected to the US Senate than ever before. Joe Scarborough of the Good Morning Joe TV show stated that Obama ground operation was remarkable; it made history. Chuck Todd, NBC News Political Director, remarked that Obama ground “machinery is the best in the history of political campaign operation” in the US.

Dagbayonoh Kiah Nyanfore, II

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