About These Campaign Organization Pages
last revised on March 25, 2009  please e-mail suggestions for improvements to any of the campaign organization pages to action08  a t  gmail.com

Democracy in Action/Eric M. Appleman has put together the campaign organization pages in an effort to show who was who on the campaigns and to give a sense of the experience and education they brought to the effort.  These pages are based on conversations with many people, online research and media accounts and have been refined and upgraded over many months.  Every effort has been made to get the facts right, but these pages should not be considered definitive.  Campaigns are fluid and ever evolving entities.  Titles at times do not adequately convey individual responsibilities.  Department headings are approximate; some of the departments in these listings are well developed and others have big holes.  Omissions, gaps and the occasional error are inevitable.  While campaigns are hierarchal, the linear presentation of campaign organization as a listing on a page has its limitations.  These do not take into account grassroots organizations, which sprout up independently to support a candidate, and can provide a foundation for the formal campaign organization to build upon.  Every successful campaign has its supervolunteers and interns.  Readers seeking detailed information on the precise roles and responsibilities or experience of an individual should contact him or her directly.  In sum, any and all shortcomings on these pages are the sole responsibility of Democracy in Action/Eric M. Appleman.  These organization pages are sketches which hopefully will help readers understand how things were organized on this historic campaign. 

General Observations on Campaign Organization
Ultimately the success of a campaign depends on the qualities of the candidate, but a candidate's campaign team can make a difference.  Modern political campaigns have many areas of responsibility: political, field, communications, research, outreach/coalitions, data/voter file, scheduling and advance, operations, get out the vote, legal and of course finance.  From the campaign manager or state director and top staff in headquarters to the field organizer, to the unheralded intern or the volunteer making calls at a phone bank in an office off main street in small town, a campaign depends on people willing to work long hours for modest or even no pay.  Because of the demanding nature of the job, many campaign staffers are in their 20's and 30's, but there are also the "gray hairs" who can call on their experience working on a succession of presidential campaigns.  Campaigns typically also have a stable of consultants and senior advisors to help with specialized tasks such as polling and media.

Presidential campaigns represent the state of the art of modern electoral campaigns.  Most obviously they have more resources and are bigger than any statewide campaign.  They are also able to attract the best people and put the most recent techniques into play.  Even before the campaign starts, a potential candidate usually has a political organization, be it a leadership PAC or a re-election campaign.  With the formation of an exploratory committee or campaign committee, the first staffers get to work setting up headquarters, sometimes in a temporary space, and bringing on new staff.  The location of the national headquarters can make a difference.  Recent campaigns show their may be an advantage to being outside the Beltway as evidenced by Obama (Chicago), George W. Bush (Austin), Bill Clinton (Little Rock).  In 1999, when Vice President Al Gore's campaign appeared to be floundering he shut down his DC headquarters and moved all those willing to go to Nashville.

he representation of a presidential campaign out in the states is uneven.  During the primaries in early states like Iowa and New Hampshire campaigns develop massive organizations over a period of many month or even a year, while in later states campaigns may be active for just a few weeks.  Success in an early state will typically lead to influx of people and interest that can challenge the ability of a campaign to make effective use of it.  Once the nomination is secured or in view, the campaign will bring on new talent as it builds out a national organization.  The campaign will also place its own people in key positions at the national party committees (DNC and RNC) as well as naming people to work with the convention committees.  Some staff will be assigned for the vice presidential nominee, and he or she will also bring some of his or her own people.

In the Fall, out in the states, three entities help bring a presidential candidate's message to the voters: (a) the candidate's campaign organization; (b) the unified effort designed to elect party members at every level from the court house to the White House (known as the coordinated campaign for Democrats and the Victory campaign for Republicans); and (c) the state party.  Also note that interest groups working independently of the campaign may also activate for or against the candidate. 
Electoral math and the quest for 270 electoral votes dictate that a presidential campaign should focus its resources on certain states, while other states may be largely bypassed. 

The 2008 campaign saw a number of interesting developments in campaign organization.  During the primaries, the McCain campaign, having fallen well short of fundraising projections, underwent a major restructuring, really a near implosion, in July 2007.  This may have been beneficial in allowing McCain to shed some consultants; in any event he went on to win the nomination.  Among other Republican campaigns, the Giuliani campaign looked very good on paper in terms of building a national organization, but when it came to the ballot box his effort folded rather quickly.  Ron Paul probably inspired the most grassroots activism of any Republican candidate, but his campaign organization itself was unable to leverage that.  On the Democratic side, the Clinton campaign had a share of infighting and ultimately in Feb. 2008 Clinton let her campaign manager and deputy campaign manager go.  Throughout the primaries, the Obama campaign was characterized by an unprecedented field organization, starting for example with about 37 offices in Iowa; three months later it had about 39 offices in Pennsylvania and this continued right to the last of the primaries with seven offices in Montana and 12 in South Dakota.  The Obama campaign seemed to play hard in every state, building organizations in states like Kansas (Feb. 5 caucuses) where the Clinton campaign did not fully engage.

In the general election the McCain (and then McCain-Palin) campaign had 11 regional campaign managers, each with significant responsibilities and each headquartered in what was expected to be a battleground state.  In quite a few states, the McCain campaign did not have a person on the ground and relied on the state party.  By contrast Obama for America, by virtue of its fundraising success and vast resources, was able to put together an unprecedented field organization including approximately 770 field offices around the country, and at least one staffer in every state.  In competitive states OFA typically had a state director, political director, communications director and a new media director.  The coordinated campaign/field component called the Campaign for Change encompassed the many field organizers.  Its initial focus was on voter registration.  Because the Obama campaign did not take PAC or lobbyist money, there were several instances where state parties ran their own coordinated campaigns with their own set of field offices in addition to the Campaign for Change and its field offices.  In every state the Obama campaign had many more people on the ground than did the McCain campaign.  Beyond the many field organizers, the campaign had deputy field organizers, committed volunteers who went through one of the many Camp Obama two-day training sessions held around the country and then relocated for five weeks or more to a targeted state.

Once the election is over,
the process of packing up and winding down the campaign, built up over so many long months, took place bringing with it a sense of nostalgia.  Many members of the winning campaign team found places in the inaugural committee or on the transition, while hoping for jobs in the new administration.  For members of the losing campaign it was also time to dust off the resumes and try to figure out what to do next. 

Copyright © 2009  Eric M. Appleman/Democracy in Action