Mobilizing for Victory
At the close of 2007, the New Media Division’s staffers found themselves almost entirely alone in Chicago. The campaign’s strategists knew that Obama needed a victory in Iowa on January 3 to have any hope of winning the nomination and that the result in New Hampshire five days later would shape the dynamic of the primaries. While the campaign had field operations running in Nevada and South Carolina, they paled in comparison to the resources directed toward these first two contests. Indeed, so much was riding on Iowa that Dan Siroker, the director of analytics, remembers that when he joined the campaign as a volunteer in December “almost everyone in the campaign was actually in Iowa.”1
With the approaching nominating contests, the Obama campaign entered a new phase. While staffers spent much of 2007 preparing for the voting to actually begin, the time had come to test the volunteer mobilization and voter turnout operations in the early primary states for which the campaign had meticulously planned. This new electoral phase meant changes for the New Media Division. The division not only needed to keep its online messaging and small-donor fund-raising growing, its ability to deliver volunteers and voter identifications took on a new importance and urgency. This was especially important in states outside the first four. In what turned out to be an extraordinarily long and hard-fought primary campaign, an outcome few had predicted, mobilization became central to the work of Obama’s new media staffers.
This chapter is about the New Media Division’s mobilization work and the tools, practices, and organization that supported it. Although its staffers were far removed from ground-level battles over electoral turf, the division played an important role in them as a result of staffers’ success at leveraging their new media tools for the ends of the field efforts. New media staffers provided supporters with tools for organizing on-the-ground months in advance of the arrival of active field staffers, created a distributed online canvass operation that involved thousands of volunteers, and registered thousands of new voters online. The chapter opens by looking at attempts to integrate new media and field operations on the campaign during 2007, paying close attention to the role of external sites such as Facebook and internal sites such as MyBO during the primaries. It then