David Plouffe: The Force Behind the Obama Phenomenon

Big Bridges theatre filled up rapidly on March 25, as enthusiastic students and faculty filed into the building. When David Plouffe came on stage to begin his lecture "The Obama Phenomenon: What's Next?," he had the audience's undivided attention.Members of the Claremont Colleges witnessed—and participated in—a long and historical presidential election, culminating in the election of Barack Obama.  After such an exciting historical event, students were enthusiastic for the opportunity to hear words of wisdom from Obama's campaign manager, David Plouffe. The event was free, and students from across the 5C's were invited. The election of Obama was ground-breaking on many levels, beginning with the incredible odds he faced from the first day of his campaign. Hillary Clinton began her bid for the Democratic nomination with an undeniable advantage: she was a Washington insider and veteran, more prominent and certainly more fiscally sponsored than Obama. Plouffe, the man that Obama lauded as the "unsung hero" of his presidential bid, stressed that because Obama's chances were always slim, every action taken had to be methodical, even close to perfection. The strategy of the Obama campaign was rather simple: they chose a platform, and stuck to it. Plouffe explained, People kept asking, where's Obama 2.0?" but the members of the campaign always believed that a consistent message of change was what people needed to hear, rather than a new and exciting political image. Plouffe assured the audience that Obama remains one of the steadiest and most level-headed men he has ever worked with. Obama's ability to operate as the calm in the eye of the storm allowed the campaign team to work as efficiently as possible, every day, in order to gain the critical support of swing states and voters. Plouffe emphasized the pivotal importance that grassroots and local efforts played in Obama's campaign. "We left no rock unturned," Plouffe explained, as he laid out the details of the intense regional and local campaign focus. While the Obama campaign also reached out through technological and online resources, such as facebook and cell phones—a strategy which many argued was the true innovation of the Obama campaign—Plouffe insisted that it was the personal and individual efforts that ultimately determined the election results. The dedication of Obama's volunteers, as well as the inspired college students and senior citizens—who were the highest individual donors to his campaign—were the ones who really made the difference on Election Day. Obama's capacity to galvanize the traditionally disillusioned "young voters" during this election was also unprecedented, and perhaps one of his most recognized achievements. Citizens of the traditionally low-turnout age group between 18-25 years old ended up voting in nearly double their usual numbers in many regions. Ultimately, Plouffe didn't have any juicy or shocking campaign secrets to reveal or explain. He simply told the story of an honest man overcoming incredible odds. It was the transparency of the Obama campaign, and the manner in which Obama's message of change reached individuals on a very personal level, that inspired Plouffe. Plouffe assured the audience that the man sitting in the White House today is dedicated to overhauling the way America does politics, so that integrity, responsibility and the American people come first.