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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Top Down, Bottom Up

One of the fascinating aspects of the upcoming presidential general election is that it will offer highly contrasting organizational models. Chris Bowers of OpenLeft nicely describes the Obama campaign’s M.O.:

The Obama campaign is clearly obsessed with maintaining a tight, top-down organizational and message structure. So far, as TPM Election central notes, the Obama campaign has been “famously devoid of (publicly visible) infighting and/or leaking.” Last month, they put the clamps on progressive 527’s, and now they are taking over the DNC. Virtually the entire general election messaging will run through the senior leadership of the Obama campaign, and no one else. This makes the Obama campaign something of a living paradox, as it sports the largest grassroots corps in electoral history, combined with the tightest top-down message structure in recent Democratic presidential election history.

Meanwhile, John McCain’s campaign has yet to show any signs of grassroots energy, and its own organizational structure is regional, not national. Furthermore, McCain will have to rely on the RNC and 527s for a significant portion of its message-delivery function.
It’s part of the CW of the 2004 campaign that Bush’s ability to centrally control his message, and distribute it via a sophisticated grassroots network, gave him a big advantage over John Kerry. This may also represent a largely hidden but important advantage for Obama.

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