The Audacity to Win | David Plouffe

Summary of: The Audacity to Win: How Obama Won and How We Can Beat the Party of Limbaugh, Beck, and Palin
By: David Plouffe


Embark on a journey through the incredible story of Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, as narrated in ‘The Audacity to Win: How Obama Won and How We Can Beat the Party of Limbaugh, Beck, and Palin’ by David Plouffe. This book unveils the strategies and decisions that propelled a one-term US senator to the presidency, despite all odds. Discover the power of grass-roots organization, the innovative use of internet technology, and the clarity of Obama’s message that resonated with millions of Americans. Gain insight into the roles played by key campaign team members, and learn valuable lessons for success in the ever-evolving world of politics.

Obama’s Victory

Barack Obama’s victory in the 2008 US presidential election was an unlikely feat that defied conventional wisdom. From his grassroots volunteer campaign to the use of technology and social media, Obama’s team successfully appealed to voters’ desire for change and ran a well-organized campaign that surpassed expectations.

Barack Obama’s victory in the 2008 US presidential election was no easy feat. He defied the odds and made history by becoming the first black president of the United States. At the time, Obama was a one-term US senator with only four years in the Illinois Senate. Yet, he managed to beat Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination and defeat veteran Senator John McCain to become president. He earned seven million more votes than any candidate in history.

The success of Obama’s campaign was not a fluke. His supporters urged him to run for president after the exceptional reaction to his book, The Audacity of Hope, as well as increased demands for him to make speeches to support Democratic candidates nationwide. Obama offered an alternative to President George W. Bush’s unpopular policies, and voters wanted change. Momentum picked up as the 2006 mid-term elections gave Democrats control of the Senate and generated the party’s first US House sweep in 12 years.

To gauge his chances of success, Obama hired veteran politicians David Axelrod, Robert Gibbs, and author David Plouffe. They set up headquarters in Chicago to avoid Washington D.C.’s insider thinking and gossip mongering. They designed a grass-roots volunteer campaign to make it easier to raise donations, recruit support, and create word-of-mouth buzz. They focused on the internet as a groundbreaking channel for raising money and building awareness and support. From the onset, they designed Obama’s website for social interaction. They set an initial fundraising goal of $50 million versus Hillary Clinton’s expected $110 million. Obama’s team raised the funds to run solidly in the first four primary states.

Obama agonized over whether to run, weighing personal, family, and career issues. Once he made the final decision, Obama recorded a teaser video in January 2007, listing the reasons he was considering a presidential bid. This test of the campaign’s new technology became popular on YouTube and the campaign’s website. Obama launched his drive for the nomination on February 10, 2007, in Springfield, Illinois, on the site where Abraham Lincoln delivered his famous “House Divided” speech.

Obama’s victory was not automatic. His team ran a well-organized campaign that appealed to voters’ desire for change and surpassed expectations. They spoke to voters like adults and organized a grass-roots movement of average citizens, the likes of which American politics had never seen. Obama’s team made history with a successful campaign that defied conventional wisdom and inspired a nation.

Obama’s Strategic Campaign

This chapter outlines the key factors that contributed to Obama’s successful presidential campaign in 2008. The book shows that strategists organized departments hierarchically, set salary caps, and gave strategic positions to technology and web development teams. Additionally, the campaign charged the central staff with backing up the field staff with great emphasis on supporting people on the ground to generate primary and caucus votes state by state. Volunteer efforts were also instrumental in strengthening the campaign. By March 2007, 450,000 people volunteered via the Internet, and e-mail campaigns garnered support and donations. Managers used internet tracking to gain key data and develop new, effective tactics. The book further demonstrates how expanding the fundraising base to grassroots level through $25-per-person “citizen fund-raisers” was a successful strategy. Obama-campaign insiders used live, streaming videos of their strategy sessions to communicate with supporters. By April 3, 2007, the campaign had raised $26 million, $3 million more than Clinton did. This proved that Clinton was not invincible and provided momentum for the Obama campaign as it moved into the Iowa caucuses.

The Obama Campaign: Grass-roots Approach with Web Technology

The Obama campaign pioneered a grass-roots approach with web technology, drawing in a million volunteers by June, three months ahead of schedule. The overriding Iowa strategy was to manage every detail, combining young supporters’ influence and creative techniques to execute flawlessly. Obama won Iowa, beating John Edwards and Clinton by eight points, confirming that a motivated grass-roots organization is a powerful tool. Young supporters vote in the same numbers as older voters, and the need for change trumps experience. The campaign’s success relied on following a steady course and giving voters direct access to Obama when possible.

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