Stick To The Plan

A Look Back at Obama 2008 (Part 2)

As Republican campaigns move into the final stretch, the pressure inside will dramatically increase.  For us at 2008 Obama for America, the temperature clearly shot up as we headed into October.  Rising anxiety levels were intensified by the realization that we were just over a dozen weeks from Iowa.  We'd staked everything as a campaign on that state and our staff was keenly aware that a loss there might also mean sudden and abrupt unemployment.  The reality of the risk that each of us had individually assumed was now staring directly at us.  Our staff had endured great hardship, long hours, and in many cases, family angst.  What all of us had once excitedly pursued as a dream we realized could potentially become a tragedy.  

The campaign reached a breaking point in mid-October, around the time a CNN poll revealed that Senator Clinton was increasing her national lead.  Where she had posted impressive numbers in September, pulling ahead by a margin of 46 to 23 percent, the new survey showed that the gap in October had grown to 51% - 21%.  In just a month, we watched her 23-point advantage over us build to 30 points.

This news shot through the campaign like a rocket.  The decided unrest that accompanied these results was further exacerbated by the mainstream media’s obsession with national polling numbers.  Even as we showed signs of serious momentum developing in Iowa, panic set in because all that was being reported in the news was the nationwide data that showed us losing.  This caused turbulence inside that threatened to break down the unity we'd maintained around the ‘Win Iowa’ strategy. 

There was a growing chorus calling on Senator Obama to spend less time in Iowa so that he could visit more states.  The same voices also pleaded to have more resources siphoned away to fund national ads that could counter the worrying trends in public opinion.  It wasn’t enough to win Iowa, some argued, when we were losing everywhere else.  

It was a watershed moment inside Obama for America.  We had one thing going for us, however.  While there were rumblings within and around our organization, at the top there was agreement that the path we’d long ago mapped was still the right way forward.  The storm ultimately passed because our candidate and leadership remained steadfastly committed to staying the course.  The lesson here is this:  if rule number one is to have a plan, rule number two is to stick to the plan.


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