Obama doesn't just denounce outsourcing on the stump. His campaign HQ is a living test of the theory that everything can be done best in-house.
CHICAGO -- Out on the campaign trail, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are at the moment engaged a spirited rhetorical debate over what it means to be an "outsourcing pioneer," a phrase borrowed from the Washington Post's coverage of Romney's Bain Capital past. For the most part, it's been discussion waged in generalities. But a tour of Obama's headquarters half-seriously suggests that the president might just want to point to his own campaign as a demonstration of doing things in-house. The scene on this floor of downtown's One Prudential Plaza is of waves of hundreds of staffers working amid a sea of college banners, rubber therapeutic balls, cardboard boxes turned into standing desks, and a visitor is struck by how much their five-year-old political operation has come to believe in rolling its own creative work.
It's as if, should the Obama campaign end tomorrow, you'd have the minds, skill sets, and tools ready to power a decent-sized tech company. Maybe even a small sovereign nation.
According to the story floating around, campaign manager Jim Messina took a year to tap the brains of tech world luminaries like Apple's Steve Jobs and Google's Eric Schmidt and came away with a few new ideas about how to run an organization. One was the belief in the "pod." Rather than distribute staffers in offices according to job function, this time around much of the Obama campaign is organized around five regional clusters. A few senior staffers have offices -- national field director Jeremy Bird and battleground states director Mitch Stewart pore over maps in one, Teddy Goff and Joe Rospars plot digital strategy in another -- but in a switch from 2008, staffers generally sit in an large open room, at long tables arranged in row after row. In one corner of the open space are a few of your more traditional political teams. The policy shop is smaller than last time, befitting a situation where much of that agenda is set by Washington. The surrogate team is bigger. It makes sense: the campaign principals, and the president and vice president in particular, have fairly demanding day jobs.