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Aug 30, 2008

How Obama Really Did It - " it was the network, stupid!"

The social-networking strategy that took an obscure senator to the doors of the White House.

By David Talbot

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Web Jockey: Jascha Franklin-Hodge, the 29-year-old cofounder and chief technology officer of Blue State Digital, the company behind Obama’s social technologies, says that “on every metric, this campaign has operated on a scale that has exceeded what was done before.” Beyond fund-raising, the Web tools enabled event planning, phone banks, and targeted e-mailing. 
Credit: Porter Gifford
video Jascha Franklin-Hodge talks about his company’s work with Barack Obama’s online social network.
photo View photos of parties organized through Obama’s social-networking site.

Joe Trippi, Howard Dean's 2004 presidential campaign manager and Internet impresario, describes Super Tuesday II--the March 4 primaries in Texas, Ohio, Vermont, and Rhode Island--as the moment Barack Obama used social tech nology to decisive effect. The day's largest hoard of dele gates would be contested in Texas, where a strong showing would require exceptional discipline and voter-education efforts. In Texas, Democrats vote first at the polls and then, if they choose, again at caucuses after the polls close. The caucuses award one-third of the Democratic delegates.

Hillary Clinton's camp had about 20,000 volunteers at work in Texas. But in an e-mail, Trippi learned that 104,000 Texans had joined Obama's social- networking site, www.my.barackobama.com, known as MyBO. MyBO and the main Obama site had already logged their share of achievements, particularly in helping rake in cash. The month before, the freshman senator from Illinois had set a record in American politics by garnering $55 million in donations in a single month. In Texas, MyBO also gave the Obama team the instant capacity to wage fully networked campaign warfare. After seeing the volunteer numbers, Trippi says, "I remember saying, 'Game, match--it's over.'"

The Obama campaign could get marching orders to the Texans registered with MyBO with minimal effort. The MyBO databases could slice and dice lists of volunteers by geographic micro region and pair people with appropriate tasks, including prepping nearby voters on caucus procedure. "You could go online and download the names, addresses, and phone numbers of 100 people in your neighborhood to get out and vote--or the 40 people on your block who were undecided," Trippi says. "'Here is the leaflet: print it out and get it to them.' It was you, at your computer, in your house, printing and downloading. They did it all very well." Clinton won the Texas primary vote 51 to 47 percent. But Obama's people, following their MyBO playbook, so overwhelmed the chaotic, crowded caucuses that he scored an overall victory in the Texas delegate count, 99 to 94. His showing nearly canceled out Clinton's win that day in Ohio. Clinton lost her last major opportunity to stop the Obama juggernaut. "In 1992, Carville said, 'It's the economy, stupid,'" Trippi says, recalling the exhortation of Bill Clinton's campaign manager, James Carville. "This year, it was the network, stupid!"...

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