Apparently, Obama campaign strategist David Plouffe’s well-organized press presentation this week had its intended effect, creating an impression of inevitable victory among the liberal media elite, including Eleanor Clift:
I watched David Plouffe, Barack Obama’s no-nonsense campaign manager, give a Power Point presentation to a roomful of reporters at the Democratic National Committee headquarters in Washington on Wednesday afternoon. . . .
Plouffe put up a series of electoral maps and with surgical precision illustrated a variety of ways Obama could reach the 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency. “We’re not going to wake up on November 4th with our campaign worrying about one state,” he said, harking back to Florida in 2000 and Ohio in 2004. “We will have a lot of states in play … a lot of ways to get to 270.” Were he any other partisan strategist, I would discount 50 percent for spin. But Plouffe is convincing, and here’s why: He ran a brilliant primary campaign, and Obama will have the money and the technology to pursue every last vote he thinks might be his.
Of course, it’s not just liberals who are impressed with Plouffe. Philip Klein also cites Obama’s operation in the Democratic primaries as evidence that Plouffe isn’t just talking out the side of his head. Having watched Team Obama’s ground game in operation one night last month, I don’t deny that their grassroots organizing efforts are impressive, and I’ve seen no evidence of any effort by John McCain’s campaign to build anything to match it.
However, a state primary campaign is not like (and a state party caucus is even less like) a nationwide general election campaign. There were 112 million votes cast in the 2004 presidential election. Between them, Obama and Hillary Clinton mustered about 35 million votes in this year’s Democratic primaries. The larger the scale of the contest, the more the election turns on voters’ generalized perceptions of the candidates, and the less impact the phone-bank/canvass/get-out-the-vote “ground game” will have.
This was a major reason why Obama repeatedly came up short in the big states like Ohio and Pennsylvania, a point that Hillary’s handlers kept harping on in their appeals to super-delegates. And there was nothing Obama’s organizational strength could do to help him win Kentucky and West Virginia.
So for all the “surgical precision” of Plouffe’s PowerPoint display, there is still cause for skepticism about his optimistic Electoral College scenarios. Newsweek reporter Andrew Romano might have said it best:
During a session with reporters at the Democratic National Committee’s Washington, D.C. headquarters this afternoon, Barack Obama campaign manager David Plouffe made a pretty interesting prediction: Obama could win Alaska in November. I wasn’t there, but I imagine Plouffe’s projection was greeted with the sound of every hack in the room scribbling “crazy” in his notebook. And underlining it. Twice.