Obama is counting on one-on-one 2012 campaign strategy

The Miami HeraldOctober 30, 2011 

Barack Obama’s re-election hopes are a numbers nightmare: 9.1 percent unemployment, increasingly negative job-approval ratings and a gap in enthusiasm between Republican and Democratic voters.

But mention the data to the Obama campaign’s national political director, Katherine Archuleta, and she’ll counter with a set of figures of her own: One on one.

That’s the buzzword and guide-star of the campaign, which is organizing itself, volunteer by volunteer and neighborhood by neighborhood, in a subtle word-of-mouth effort that, Democrats hope, could surprise Republicans next year.

“This campaign is based on one-on-one relationships. And that’s something the president is very adamant about and it’s really based on his work in communities in Chicago,” Archuleta said. “We’re reaching out. Not on a general basis, but on a one-to-one basis.”

Since April, the campaign says, it has contacted 350,000 Floridians by knocking on their doors or calling them. It has recruited 8,500 active volunteers in the state, and overseen 1,891 volunteer-driven events such as phone banks, neighborhood walks and house parties.

All of it was made possible by about 3,000 one-on-one meetings between campaign staffers, community leaders, volunteers and neighbors in the state.

Meantime, the Chicago-based campaign has been assembling and dissecting data in a sophisticated, well-funded operation. It’s also making a strong play for the Hispanic vote, which is growing more crucial by the election and which Archuleta, who has Latina roots, implicitly understands.

“They have a formidable organization and a lot of knowledge,” said Republican pollster John McLaughlin, who has worked for a number of Florida candidates, including U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz Balart in 2008.

“In the Diaz-Balart campaign, we worked overtime to hit our targets when we saw how the Obama campaign was turning out the early vote,” McLaughlin said. “We were afraid of their organization.”

But now, McLaughlin notes, Obama has so many problems with voters and the economy that it will be a far harder task for him to get re-elected, regardless of the grassroots organization.

The Obama 2012 effort ultimately revolves around getting supporters to share personal stories about how Obama’s policies have tried to help them and their neighbors. Recently, as part of the president’s “We Can’t Wait” initiative, he has announced plans to help struggling homeowners, veterans and college graduates paying back their loans.

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