TO: Interested Parties
FR: David Plouffe, campaign manager
Obama for America
DA: July 1, 2007
RE: The state of the race
This is the first time Plouffe has made these arguments in public.
Less than six months ago, we began this campaign with a mission.
Barack and all of us were determined to defeat the politics of cynicism and division that is so pervasive in Washington today and replace it with a politics of unity, hope and common purpose.
The pundits and political insiders questioned whether a new leader and fledgling campaign could compete with the big money and massive organization of other candidates who have been preparing to run for years, and even decades.
The irony is that Hillary Clinton's base is said to be among downscale, working-class Dems.
BTW: reports in one of the two new books about Clinton that she'd been preparing for this race for 30 years have been denied by the alleged source, historian Taylor Branch, but the "big money and massive organization" part is true enough.
Well, for the second consecutive quarter, you’ve helped send a resounding answer.
I’m thrilled to report that in the last three months, the Obama campaign has set a new record for fundraising. Thanks to you, we raised at least $32.5 million including at least $31 million that we can spend on the battle for the Democratic nomination.
But as astonishing as that feat is, much more important is how we raised it.
To date, more than 258,000 Americans have contributed to this effort, much of it coming in small donations. This, too, shatters all records and sends an unmistakable message to the political establishment that the same old politics just won’t do in 2008.
That's a record -- 258,000 Americans have never contributed to a campaign this early. No data yet on the average contribution size. That'll be key to determining whether his support comes from working class Dems or elite Dems.
The American people are demanding real change, a politics of principle and not just expediency. They want to turn the page, and they’re turning out and supporting this effort in unprecedented numbers. It has become more than a campaign. It is a movement.
Not so fast -- money aside, there is equivocal polling evidence about which candidate -- Clinton or Obama -- is seen as the change agent. Certainly, the success of Obama's nomination quest depends on the willingness of Democratic voters to see him as such.
Our financial success will provide the campaign important momentum. But there is practical application as well, which gives us a decided advantage in the nomination fight.
First, we are on a financial course that will allow us to both fully fund efforts in the early primary and caucus states, and also participate vigorously in all the February 5 contests, including large states like California, New Jersey, New York, Georgia and Missouri.
Frankly, when we entered this race, we did not think that was possible. We estimated at this point of the campaign we’d be at least $20-25 million behind one of our fellow candidates. But due to the amazing outpouring of support from people all across the country, remarkably, we should be on at least even financial footing for the duration of the campaign.
Secondly, because so many states are holding early contests that may have significant impact on deciding the ultimate Democratic nominee, a winning campaign will need deep organizations in dozens of states to prevail. Our more than 258,000 donors provide us the foundation of an unprecedented volunteer army in all 50 states. We also have thousands more who are not able to contribute but are already volunteering or who plan too. For example, early in June, more than 10,000 Americans took part in our “Walk for Change” -- canvassing neighborhoods in all 50 states, visiting more than 350,000 households.
All true, all impressive.
We will have the largest and most committed grassroots organization in the race, allowing us to build our support, chase absentee ballots, conduct early vote programs and turn out Obama supporters in any state we need to.
In so many ways, these primaries will be conducted just like general elections in years past -- emphasizing early and absentee voting and target modeling.
This is a tremendous asset and is one more manifestation of the “enthusiasm gap” we have over our rivals. Six months into the race, we simply could not be in a better position. We have built a powerful, well funded grassroots movement and strong organizations in each of the critical early states. Barack’s call to change our politics and put government back on the side of the American people and our best ideals is resonating more strongly every day.
If you don’t believe it, take a look at how so many of our opponents have in recent months embraced Barack’s critique, positions -- and even his language.
Some of our opponents have tried to deflect attention from the obvious power and momentum of the movement we’re building by pointing to national polls, that are all but meaningless. Indeed, at this juncture four years ago, Joe Lieberman had a solid lead in national polls. In the fall of 2003, the leaders were Howard Dean and Wesley Clark. You’ll recall, none of these men were the nominee.
Plouffe wins the merits of the national polling argument in my opinion, but the reality is that we won't _really_ know whether national polls TODAY are important until Feb. 5 of next year. We've never had a day like Feb. 5 before. On the Lieberman point: did Lieberman's frontrunner status weigh as much as Clinton's does? His lead in the polls was much smaller, and if you added Clinton to those questions, she would often win. As to the enthusiasm gap, I tend to believe it, but I've seen at least one poll showing Hillary Clinton with an edge here. (The most recent CBS/NYT poll)
We’re pleased to be running as strongly as we are in the national polls, but they are beside the point in a process that will be shaped by a series of early contests that will begin in Iowa.
Where John Edwards is leading and Obama is tied with Hillary in most polls. And in New Hampshire, where HRC is leading.
One of our opponents is also the quasi-incumbent in the race, who in our belief will and should lead just about every national poll from now until the Iowa caucuses. Expect nothing different and attach no significance to it. It is clear you did not in this past quarter and we would encourage everyone to keep our sights focused on doing well in the early primaries and caucuses, and then using our organizational advantage nationally to clinch the nomination in February.
Ok, but the last quasi-incumbent was Al Gore.
Just as a refresher, below are some Democratic primary national polls going back to 1980. You’ll see how effective they have been as crystal balls.
2003: In August 2003, Joe Lieberman led the national polls, in September, Howard Dean led, in October, Wesley Clark led, and in December – one month before the Iowa Caucuses – a Wall Street Journal/NBC poll showed John Kerry, the eventual nominee, in fifth place trailing among others Joe Lieberman and Dick Gephardt. Yet after winning Iowa and New Hampshire, Kerry vaulted to 49% in national polls before the end of January, This has been true in nearly every previous Democratic nomination contest:
1992: According to a November 1991 Los Angeles Times poll, Bill Clinton was in 3rd place with less than half the support of the then-frontrunner, Jerry Brown.
1988: A January 1988 New York Times/CBS Poll showed Michael Dukakis in fourth place with 6 percent.
1980: An August 1979 poll showed President Carter trailing Senator Ted Kennedy by 36 points
Time is a friend to our campaign.
While voters have a distinctly positive feeling about Barack, they don’t have a great depth of knowledge about his life and history of leadership in Illinois and Washington. That history, which we have begun sharing in the early states, distinguishes Barack as someone who not only speaks about change, but who has spent a lifetime working to bring it about.
As we educate voters about Barack, we have strong reason to believe that our already impressive support in the early states will solidify and slowly build later in the year.
It is clear we have the most room to grow in the race, given that the majority of voters do not know much about Barack beyond what they have gleaned from news reports over the last few months.
We also remain the candidate most clearly synched up with the electorate, an electorate clamoring for change and ready for our relationships around the world to be repaired. The election is after all about the voters, and we are very confident that Barack Obama is the type of leader Democrats are looking for in the standard bearer.
If we prevail in the nomination fight, there is mounting evidence that Barack Obama would be the strongest general election candidate. Barack is consistently the strongest Democrat with independents in general election polling, who are the voters that are the pathway to the presidency. Barack also has a 2-1 fav/unfav with general election voters, which is also the best score in the Democratic field. That strength with independents, plus what would likely be very strong Democratic turnout across the country as a result of an Obama candidacy, also likely puts more states in play. We cannot afford another election where we have to run the table to win the Electoral College.
Any Democrat would be strong in this electoral environment, but Obama seems to have an edge at this point, even if it's only on the surface. His fav/uvfavs are astonishing for a guy who only 75% national name recognition.
So, the point is this. We are off to a great start because of your help. We are going to keep our head down and focus on continuing to build a powerful grassroots movement, focus on the early states but plan for the states to come in early February and continue to both introduce Barack Obama and the kind of President he would be to the American people.
In a little over six months, the contest begins in earnest. We are ahead of schedule in every phase of the campaign. Let’s keep it going and elect a leader who will transform our country.
Thank you again for all you have done in the last five months.