Organizing for America Targets New Voters

Organizing for America unveiled its 2010 election strategy yesterday, and the heavy focus will be on turning out people who voted for the first time in 2008.


In a video conference for OfA supporters, webcast live Monday afternoon from the studio in the basement of the Democratic National Committee Headquarters, with about 30 OfA supporters seated in the room, OfA Executive Director Mitch Stewart and former Obama campaign manger David Plouffe announced the strategy.

"We've settled on focusing on first time voters," Plouffe said, while Stewart noted that feedback from OfA members had driven the choice.

"We sent out a survey after the 2009 year," Stewart said. "And you told us, 'We want to focus on these 2008 first-time voters.'"

Fifteen million people voted in a presidential election for the first time in 2008, Plouffe said. The former Obama campaign operative told OfA supporters that Obama had essentially tied with John McCain among voters who had voted in 2004, but that he won 71 percent to 27 percent among first-time voters.

"We know we have a historical burden here to make sure that these people stay in the process," Plouffe said.

Indeed, that's been a gigantic part of OfA's mission: to keep in contact with Obama supporters who haven't traditionally been involved in politics, to bring a new set of marginal voters into the electorate, and to keep them active in supporting Obama's policy efforts between elections.

3.1 million people participated in OfA activities in 2009, according to Stewart.

OfA will use its voter database to locate first-time voters and guide OfA activists to call them and knock on their doors, telling them that Democrats must win 2010 midterm races in order for Obama's agenda to move forward--and in order to avoid the alternative of GOP majorities.

Marginal and casually interested voters typically don't turn out in midterm elections. If OfA can convince them to, it stands to make a difference--and it stands to change the political landscape in a way that some though possible after Obama's victory in 2008. But, given how things have gone, historically, OfA has its work cut out.
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Chris Good is a political reporter for ABC News. He was previously an associate editor at The Atlantic and a reporter for The Hill.

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