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The Obama campaign has been building, tweaking and tinkering with its technology and organizational infrastructure since it kicked off in February 2007, and today has most sophisticated organizing apparatus of any presidential campaign in history. Previous political campaigns have tapped the internet in innovative ways — Howard Dean's 2004 presidential run, and Ron Paul's bid for this year's Republican nomination, to name two. But Obama is the first to successfully integrate technology with a revamped model of political organization that stresses volunteer participation and feedback on a massive scale, erecting a vast, intricate machine set to fuel an unprecedented get-out-the-vote drive in the final days before Tuesday's election.
These neighborhood teams have both phone-banked and physically knocked on doors to make sure that voters are registered and know where to vote — an effort that will continue all the way through Election Day.
But the calling won't be a completely random affair. The Obama campaign will give volunteers access to databases that have been constantly updated throughout the summer through its field-office computers, and through myBo — Obama supporters' nickname for myBarackObama.com — with information about potential voters' political leanings. The information in the database has accumulated over time from previous election campaigns, and is constantly updated with information gathered at people's doorsteps by canvassers like Scanlon, and through phone calls.
Scanlon logs her activities on myBo, which awards points for various volunteer activities. The point system helps other would-be supporters figure out who they can hook up with locally if they want to get more involved in the campaign, says Hughes.
Ganz says that his and Wageman's training system works well for the Obama campaign, because it's designed to channel the enthusiasm of voters who are emotionally inspired by orators such as Obama. This appeal to the right brain contrasts with most of the recent Democratic political campaigns, which have appealed to voters' logic by selling concepts and policies.
The sessions vary in size from groups of 40 to more than 300, held variously at the campaign's Chicago headquarters, in rented office spaces, union halls, churches or on college campuses. In addition to leadership and motivation training, the camp features storytelling sessions, where the volunteers are broken up into small teams organized by congressional district. Each member of these groups is asked to tell personal stories in two minutes, in the same format Obama used in his 2004 speech at the Democratic National Convention.
Even McCain supporters readily acknowledge Obama's superior online organizing.
"I'm afraid we're not that sophisticated," says Judy Wise, a retiree in Plant City. Wise is a lifelong Republican who volunteers three full days of her week for the McCain campaign. She manages McCain's Plant City office, where volunteers use the RNC's Voter Vault for phone banks, but not for neighborhood canvasses.
"We've probably called every Republican in Orange County at least twice," says the College Republicans' York. "Some people tell us politely that they've been called, but others shout: 'This is the third time I've been called, and if you call again, I'm going to change my vote!'"