How will Sen. Barack Obama harness the enthusiasm that greets his every appearance? That's been a strategic question the campaign has debated from day one, and judging by a spate of recent articles in the press, one that they're ready to start answering in public. Here's a memo sent to campaign insiders today by Temo Figueroa, Obama's national field director.

Figueroa starts with the Obama Campaign Litany (tm), familiar to anyone who has interviwed any senior campaign official.

Barack Obama’s campaign for the White House has generated unprecedented grassroots enthusiasm. As he has traveled across the country he has been greeted by crowds of more than 20,000 in Atlanta, GA; 20,000 in Austin, TX and a historic crowd of 10,000 in Iowa City, IA.



But:

But the question people keep asking is – how are we going to channel this enthusiasm into an organization capable of delivering victories in the early states and the February 5th states? Democrats have seen this before, an overwhelming surge of support from young people and candidates who can bring new people into the process, but this campaign is not just about a new kind of candidate, it is about a new campaign focused on exploiting the “enthusiasm gap” we enjoy over the other candidates by marrying traditional field organizing training with the community organizing tactics Obama learned as a young man on the south side of Chicago.



Read the full memo after the jump.

TO: Interested Parties

FR: Temo Figueroa, Obama Campaign National Field Director

RE: Camp Obama: Turning Enthusiasm into Organization

DT: August 29, 2007



Barack Obama’s campaign for the White House has generated unprecedented grassroots enthusiasm. As he has traveled across the country he has been greeted by crowds of more than 20,000 in Atlanta, GA; 20,000 in Austin, TX and a historic crowd of 10,000 in Iowa City, IA.



But the question people keep asking is – how are we going to channel this enthusiasm into an organization capable of delivering victories in the early states and the February 5th states? Democrats have seen this before, an overwhelming surge of support from young people and candidates who can bring new people into the process, but this campaign is not just about a new kind of candidate, it is about a new campaign focused on exploiting the “enthusiasm gap” we enjoy over the other candidates by marrying traditional field organizing training with the community organizing tactics Obama learned as a young man on the south side of Chicago.



Over the course of the last three months, the Obama campaign has trained thousands of volunteers and supporters at “Camp Obama” trainings. The program started in Chicago, but the interest was so high from applicants across the country that we quickly realized taking the program national would be essential to our success. To date we have held almost twenty Camp Obama trainings across the country including Burbank, CA; San Francisco, CA; Atlanta, GA; St. Louis, MO; Salt Lake City, UT and New York City, NY. In October, we will hold trainings in Birmingham, Alabama and Memphis, Tennessee and will continue the trainings in Chicago.



What happens at the trainings?

These trainings are a marriage between community organizing and traditional organizing tactics, which is rare in electoral campaigns. Attendees go through a vigorous two to four day program that includes training on setting up and running phone banks, planning and organizing a door-knocking program and role playing common scenarios from the campaign trail including the process of registering voters and speaking with voters about Obama’s leadership on key issues.



But the focus is also on building upon Barack Obama’s vision for grassroots community organizing. We took some of the community organizing tactics—like relationship building and the ability to find common interests in people and employ them within this training.

These trainings are about building local leaders in the communities and fostering long-term relationships to support our common values. We split people up into teams based on their congressional districts and they work in these teams from the moment they show up to the moment they leave. We create, in a way, mini-campaign offices with these groups—self-sufficient, interdependent teams that take responsibility for all aspects of a campaign within their congressional district.



What is the purpose of the trainings?

The purpose is to provide supporters and volunteers with the tools to take organizing into their own hands. We recognize that enthusiasm alone will not win the nomination and that it is incumbent upon the campaign to equip our grassroots base with not only the training, but also a plan to continue turning energy into action all the way to the White House.



In Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire and South Carolina we have thousands of volunteers working with our teams on the ground. The Camp Obama trainings are happening outside of the borders of the early states. We recognize that local people are the everyday experts on the issues important to their communities. Our goal is to equip the everyday experts with the same organizing tools and the roadmap to victory that our paid campaign staffers rely on across the country.



What are attendees saying about the trainings?

Ben Turner, 17, Student, Atlanta "For me, Barack Obama is a symbol of what's to come, of an entire movement. Just like MLK [Martin Luther King Jr.] was a symbol for the civil rights movement, Barack Obama is a symbol of his movement." [Atlanta Journal Constitution, August 26, 2007]

Ina Cruse, 62, Retired, Chicago: "It is not only the young people that are interested in change," said Cruse, who is retired from a job with the city of Chicago. [AP, June 2, 2007]

Julia Duncan, 19, Junior, University of Virginia: "Nine o'clock at night you're like, 'Give me the next assignment, like who's the next speaker?' ... It's worth it," Duncan said. [AP, June 2, 2007]

Rosalyn James, 40, St. Louis Lab Technician: "This is the first time I've ever been involved in politics," said Rosalyn James, 40, a lab technician [Boston Globe, Aug, 18, 2007]

Rachel Simon, High School Student: "Senator Obama has inspired me to want to work for a better future than we have now," [KTVI – Fox St. Louis, August 12, 2007]

Charli Cooksey, 20, Political Science Major at Prairie View A&M University: "[We] are just normal people who want change." [Boston Globe, Aug, 18, 2007]

Conclusion:

Barack Obama believes this movement is not just about winning the Democratic nomination, it is about changing the country and in order to do that this the campaign has worked to train and equip our volunteers and supporters with the tools they need to play a substantive and meaningful role in this effort. Equipping volunteers and supporters with training and organizing tools will help in the first four primary states, but it will also have a major impact on the Obama campaign presence in the February 5th states where most candidates are struggling to decide if they should invest resources.

The Obama campaign is investing in everyday people and encouraging them to be our ambassadors, our organizers and our voices in places where we don’t have paid staff or official offices yet. Thanks to Camp Obama and similar efforts, we have the largest grassroots organization in the history of presidential politics, giving the Obama campaign a strategic and organizational advantage in early states like Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina and in February 5th states like California, New Jersey, New York, Georgia and Missouri. Because so many states are holding early contests that may have a significant impact on deciding the ultimate Democratic nominee, a winning campaign will need deep organizations in dozens of states to prevail.

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.

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