I saw this up close in South Carolina prior to this state's critical primary. While the Clinton camp talked of having a great number of volunteers and staff working throughout the state, it just wasn't true. Obama's staff, on the other hand, built steadily throughout the six months leading up to the S.C. primary and ended up being the best-organized and deepest field force that I've seen in over 30 years of being around statewide campaigns in South Carolina.
In addition to that, it was and still is the online marketing of the Obama brand that continues to amaze traditional political pundits. Take, for example, how donating online in even very small amounts creates an ever-growing community of Obama ambassadors.
A friend I know, who's an Independent voter and who had never made an online campaign contribution, recently went online and donated $50 to the Obama campaign. Within two minutes she received a thank-you for the contribution and an acknowledgement that someone in Ohio had matched her contribution as a way of also saying thank you. Two minutes after that, she received another e-mail from the campaign asking if she, too, would be willing to match the $50 contribution of a new donor, and whether her e-mail address could be shared so that the new donor could thank her for her match. You get the picture.
This is not traditional advertising. This is building a brand the way social networks are built out. And perfect strangers are talking to each other over the Internet and sharing stories about why, for the first time in their lives, they are signing on to a campaign website and donating money. So with Ohio, Texas, and other critical primaries coming soon, you just have to wonder if this incredible momentum can possibly be blunted.
I doubt it.
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A former chairman of the South Carolina Democratic Party, Joe Erwin is president of Erwin-Penland, a 180-person full-service advertising and marketing agency in Greenville, S.C., that is part of Interpublic Group of Cos.' Hill Holliday Connors Cosmopulos. Mr. Erwin has endorsed Barack Obama.