Saturday, 8 May 2010

The Audacity to Win by David Plouffe

The Audacity to Win: The Inside Story and Lessons of Barack Obama's Historic Victory by David Plouffe (Viking 2009)

The election of Barack Obama in 2008 looked to be the most amazing upset. As a young and vibrant black senator with negligible experience who would not only have to go in and carry all the states won by John Kerry back in the 2004 election but make inroads into traditionally red states Obama did not seem to have an obvious path to victory. This book shows how the impossible was achieved, not just defeating McCain but triumphing over the other must beat candidate, Hilary Clinton.

Beating Clinton was quite an achievement and nearly the first half of the book is dedicated to the first year spent almost entirely in Iowa building up a phenomenal grass roots base and putting Obama on the map. Winning Iowa would mean building up the momentum that, a long way down the line, finally brought him the nomination. His path to victory was built upon expanding the electorate, registering new voters, appealing to moderate republicans and campaigning in the counties and areas of the states which would maximise his delegate count and thus secure him the nomination.

The book shows Obama to be better organised, better prepared, better disciplined, better financed and running to a better strategy than either Clinton or McCain. There is a lot to admire in the way they fought these campaigns, the grass roots organisations they built up rather than relying on in-state old party king-makers, the use of new media to communicate with members and supporters and often to break news directly to the party first is all commendable. One cannot help but feel that they these are people who know the system and played to the system. Against Clinton the focus of the campaigning was winning the delegates and against McCain it was about playing the board making the best electoral college arithmetic and arrive at the magical number 270. At no point do you feel that winning the popular vote was a real concern and I guess that just means that they were smart but one cannot help but consider the efficacy of an electoral system that would allow the popular vote to be a secondary concern.

A very interesting dose of insight!


Anonymous said...

The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

Every vote, everywhere, would be politically relevant and equal in presidential elections. Candidates would need to care about voters across the nation, not just undecided voters in a handful of swing states.

The bill would take effect only when enacted, in identical form, by states possessing a majority of the electoral votes--that is, enough electoral votes to elect a President (270 of 538). When the bill comes into effect, all the electoral votes from those states would be awarded to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

The bill uses the power given to each state by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution to change how they award their electoral votes for president.

The bill has been endorsed or voted for by over 1,775 state legislators (in 48 states) who have sponsored and/or cast recorded votes in favor of the bill.

In Gallup polls since 1944, only about 20% of the public has supported the current system of awarding all of a state's electoral votes to the presidential candidate who receives the most votes in each separate state (with about 70% opposed and about 10% undecided). The recent Washington Post, Kaiser Family Foundation, and Harvard University poll shows 72% support for direct nationwide election of the President. Support for a national popular vote is strong in virtually every state, partisan, and demographic group surveyed in recent polls in closely divided battleground states: Colorado-- 68%, Iowa --75%, Michigan-- 73%, Missouri-- 70%, New Hampshire-- 69%, Nevada-- 72%, New Mexico-- 76%, North Carolina-- 74%, Ohio-- 70%, Pennsylvania -- 78%, Virginia -- 74%, and Wisconsin -- 71%; in smaller states (3 to 5 electoral votes): Alaska -- 70%, DC -- 76%, Delaware --75%, Maine -- 77%, Nebraska -- 74%, New Hampshire --69%, Nevada -- 72%, New Mexico -- 76%, Rhode Island -- 74%, and Vermont -- 75%; in Southern and border states: Arkansas --80%, Kentucky -- 80%, Mississippi --77%, Missouri -- 70%, North Carolina -- 74%, and Virginia -- 74%; and in other states polled: California -- 70%, Connecticut -- 74% , Massachusetts -- 73%, Minnesota -- 75%, New York -- 79%, Washington -- 77%, and West Virginia- 81%.

The National Popular Vote bill has passed 29 state legislative chambers, in 19 small, medium-small, medium, and large states, including one house in Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, and Oregon, and both houses in California, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington. The bill has been enacted by Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, Maryland, and Washington. These five states possess 61 electoral votes -- 23% of the 270 necessary to bring the law into effect.


Paolo said...

It's a very interesting idea but I can't imagine that the Republican's would ever let it fly as more populous areas tend to be democratic. It also seems that smaller states would lose influence meaning that power would become increasingly centralised around big cities where the campaign money would all be spent. It might produce a purer form of democracy but I'm not convinced it would be any fairer.