Obama MA’08: The view from inside the Alamo

We had known, when we arrived at Massachusetts headquarters last weekend, that the Obama campaign had pretty much given up on the Commonwealth; after South Carolina most of MA’s staff decamped to Connecticut, leaving behind a skeleton crew of seven (!). More on the strategic reasons behind this shift later.

Essentially, the local campaign’s task seems to have been to wage a defensive battle and prevent an outright embarrassment (especially to Senator Kennedy). I’m not sure how well we succeeded on that front: the margin in the popular vote was far wider than even I had expected, though I’m waiting for the delegate tally to judge.

Even though we were destined to lose this battle, I do think we fell far short of our potential. With just a few more feet on the ground here, and a few more weeks of advance work, we could have put out a more formidable voter-ID drive and GOTV effort. Considerable talent and energy was concentrated on Cambridge, where we had a total blowout (63% : 35%), while it seemed we had much feebler or no operations in other towns that could have been competitive (such as Milton, Deval Patrick’s hometown). We had repeatedly reminded the campaign that we had a car, were willing to go out to the suburbs, and were capable of running a small canvassing or outreach operation, but there was no one in the campaign to accept that offer. Instead, we were turned back to the Cambridge headquarters, where we left no stone unturned. I spent precious Sunday canvassing hours hunting down elusive 20-somethings who were either not home or not even in the state anymore.

After talking to quite a few other volunteers, it became clear that we were not the only ones who were ready and able to help scale the operations but were never tapped. Cambridge, of course, turns out to be a hotbed of activists who have run various campaigns over the years. Rather than fan out to other parts of the state, all of us were set loose on each other in the last few days. (We were canvassed at least

Perhaps the biggest alarm bell for me is that the grassroots organization that Deval put together in 2006 just didn’t re-materialize. Perhaps too many of them had been absorbed into the Administration (and therefore couldn’t volunteer); perhaps they didn’t really like Obama as much as Deval did; or perhaps they, like us, were never asked.

MA Democratic primary results (by town) — much more useful than the New York Times’ county-level map. The interesting trivia actually is in the Republican map — for example, former Governor Romney lost almost the entire western half of the state, Ron Paul won Boylston (322 votes) and Mike Huckabee won Salem (1,254 votes). I’m not sure that Christian-right Huckabee wants to brag about picking up the witch vote.

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