Organizing the Obama Campaign
Joe Rospars’s work at the Democratic Party through the 2006 midterm elections provided him with invaluable experience organizing a new media campaign operation. Rospars subsequently carried this experience with him to the Obama campaign, which he joined as the new media director in early 2007. Rospars was responsible for much of the vision, goals, strategy, staffing, and day-to-day management of a New Media Division at Chicago headquarters that, by the end of the campaign, had grown to encompass approximately 100 paid staffers, 20 full-time volunteers, and more than 100 other project-based or temporary volunteers, in addition to the new media teams ensconced in the headquarters of the battleground states. Rospars and his team fashioned the New Media Division into a central component of the campaign, driving substantial amounts of its fund-raising, messaging, and volunteering. This role for new media “to capture and empower interest and desire” and to deliver financial, symbolic, and organizational resources to the campaign was not somehow dictated by the tools themselves.1 The campaign’s embrace of new media and its many successes in doing so were organizational and technical achievements that had been forged through the long hours, in-depth planning, complicated negotiations, and meeting of technical challenges that characterized much of the day-to-day work of its staffers.
This chapter is about the organization of Obama’s New Media Division. New media staffers created the organizational processes and technical infrastructure that helped translate the extraordinary interest around Obama’s candidacy into the staple electoral resources enshrined in the ubiquitous phrase that staffers used to refer to their goals: “money, message, and mobilization.” With the goal of utilizing new media to garner these resources, from the earliest days of the primaries Obama’s staffers meticulously planned the division’s role in the larger campaign organization and its staffing and work practices. In other words, out of the media spotlight and well before the crowds of supporters arrived, the campaign’s principals engaged in the hard work of organization building necessary for a presidential run. Judith Freeman, the cofounder of the New Organizing Institute who joined the New Media Division’s online organizing team during