Easy Like Sunday Morning…

by Shawn Scanlon

Colorado seems to be heading for a breakup with the Republican Party.  Rather than look at the demographics or address the policy preferences of each party, (which we’ve already done in class) why not compare Kerry 2004 to Obama 2008?

We’ll be comparing campaign bureaucracies.  In 2004, I was a member of the Kerry-Edwards campaign team, so I speak with a bit of knowledge on the organization.  Statewide, we had 9 regional campaign offices.  There were a half-dozen “satellite” offices that were more or less affiliated, but Kerry-Edwards had 9 offices.  Each office was large, and had a lot of resources to muster.  The strategy was simple: each of the 9 regional offices would assign organizers to a district within the region to recruit volunteers.  The problem: this strategy made the campaign seem top-heavy and clunky.  My assigned district was 25 minutes from the office that I worked out of.

Fast-forward to 2008.  The Obama-Biden campaign has 50 offices in Colorado.  Most of the Obama offices are much smaller than ours were in 2004, but this campaign structure appeals to activists.  Each field organizer is never more than 10 minutes from their assigned district, and volunteers have a myriad of options to choose from when deciding where to volunteer.  Rather than renting one very large office, (half of the office building I worked in was rented by Kerry-Edwards) Obama-Biden is renting smaller spaces, and spreading the wealth.

Let’s look closely at JeffCo, where there was only one campaign office in 2004.  In 2008, volunteers have the choice of 5 campaign offices: Arvada, Golden, Lakewood, Littleton or Morrison.  It is much easier for volunteers to give their time to the campaign.  Plus, there’s a bit more energy for Democrats:

There remains a significant enthusiasm gap between the candidates: While 67 percent of Obama supporters are enthusiastic about their candidate, just 31 percent of McCain supporters are enthusiastic about theirs – a drop of six points. (via CBS News)

This may seem like a small issue, but having and army of volunteers knocking on doors and making phone calls contributes to success.  Once early voting ends on Friday, the real ground game begins.  Obama’s small-scale approach may make a large difference in Colorado’s breakup with the GOP.



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5 responses to “Easy Like Sunday Morning…

  1. Stephen Noriega


    You make a great point about the structure of the campaign. By allowing volunteers, and even paid campaigners, to operate within their comfort zones is invaluable and leads to more enthusiastic work. This feels more like a grass roots dynamic, evwen though it isn’t, and that fits the Colorado frame of mind more.

    I would still look at changing demographics. Colorado’s population is changing and all of the ways in which it is changing favors Democrats in elections. That is not to say that all of Colorado will go Democrat anytime soon. How many Obama offices are their out by Yuma County?

  2. Shawn_Scanlon

    Although it is an hour from the center of Yuma county, there is an Obama office in Fort Morgan.

    I can’t find evidence that any recent presidential campaign (D or R) has set up shop in Fort Morgan.

    I’d agree with you that changing demographics is a big issue, more important than Obama’s campaign structure, but this certainly has an impact as well.

    I also agree that plenty of counties will still go bright red, but we know that voter contact increases turnout; if Obama drives an extra 30 votes to the polls in each of those tiny counties, that may end up being the difference in coattails for Markey.

  3. caitlinmock

    I’d agree with both of you that it is a combination of changing demographics and a new organizational system within the campaigns. I’d also add that I think everything that has occurred since 2004 is motivating people to get out and get involved, which may have been a reason why there are so many more offices this year. Perhaps there weren’t as many offices because there weren’t as many volunteers to fill them. I volunteered in 2004 for Kerry as well and I remember the office I went to being really far away from the neighborhood they sent me to canvass in. Either way, GOBAMA!

  4. Tony Robinson

    Nice post Shawn. I really like your link to how motivated volunteers can make a real difference. You link to a nice scholarly article to supplement the usual casual punditry that I and others toss about on the blog and in class. good work.

    I was watching a CNN conversation tonight on how so many more of Obama’s field staff are volunteers, versus the hoards of paid staff for both campaigns back in 2004. This reporter was saying that the level of reliance on volunteers by Obama was unprecedented and speaks to the genuine enthusiasm he has sparked among those who believe in him. I expect that there’s no substitute for true believers at your doorstep–as opposed to paid help (just ask the English how well that Hessian thing worked out back in 1776). I mean, a paid staffer may be likely to run when confronted with “the people,” when they show up at the door either nude with their lover in the background, or in full chicken-suite regalia (sorry for those who don’t follow the inside joke here–but Shawn will get it), but a motivated volunteer can be counted on to go straight to the script, and/or talk from the heart.

    Anyway, 50 campaign offices by a Dem in CO is stunning. I’ve never seen anything like this election.

  5. Nathan Pitman

    This an interesting point. The one thing I might like to see is a couple larger offices that offer more regional control. I also worked with the Kerry campaign on election day mostly with the legal team out of the office on colfax. The one nice thing about having those bigger offices is that there seems to be a lot of coordination between the various different people working on similar things. I worry that the Obama team is so decentralized as to increase the amount of re-doing the research and other types of work that is so important in 21st century election

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