- The Obama ‘08 iPhone application was truly remarkable: “Tap the top button, ‘call friends,’ and the software would take a peek at your phonebook and rearrange it in the order that the campaign was targeting states, so that friends who had, say, Colorado or Virginia area codes would appear at the top. With another tap, the Obama supporter could report back essential data for a voter canvass (‘left message,’ ‘not interested,’ ‘already voted,’ etc.). It all went into a giant database for Election Day.”

Even campaign tactics that looked to the public like elaborate publicity stunts turned out to be deadly serious strategies: When the campaign announced that Obama would announce his vice presidential selection via text message, “the point was to collect voters’ cell-phone numbers for later contact during voter registration and get-out-the-vote efforts. Thanks to the promotion, the campaign’s list of cell-phone numbers increased several-fold to more than 1 million.”

Joe Trippi, the political genius behind the Dean Internet juggernaut, often said that if the Dean campaign was like the Wright Brothers at Kitty Hawk, then Obama’s was the Apollo program. Asked about this analogy, Joe Rospars, the director of New Media for Obama, replied, “Not really—if you consider that Kitty Hawk was a successful flight, as compared to something that blew up on the fucking launchpad.”

Overall, Newsweek’s effort is an adequate first draft of history. But authors who have a little more time to reflect on these events than Thomas will surely produce much richer versions.

And if you don’t have time to digest 47,000 words, check out Steve Kroft’s remarkable sit down with Obama braintrusters David Axelrod, David Plouffe, Robert Gibbs, and Anita Dunn.

Recorded immediately after Obama claimed victory in front of hundreds of thousands of supporters at Grant Park in Chicago, and broadcast last night on 60 Minutes, the interview contains a wealth of insights.

After Kroft observes that “so many people..said ‘You’re not going to be able to elect a black man president of the United States..that had to be part of your equation in planning this campaign,” campaign manager David Plouffe replies:

No, honestly, you had to take a leap of faith in the beginning that the people would get by race. And I think the number of meetings we had about race was zero. Zero. We had to believe in the beginning that he would be a strong enough candidate that people of every background and race would be for him. The only time we got involved in a discussion of race was when people asked us about it. It was a fascination of the news media.

Axelrod recalled that when the Rev. Wright crisis exploded, the “only one who was calm was Obama.” And Plouffe identifies Obama’s speech about race as the turning point in the campaign: “It was a moment of real leadership. I think when he gave that race speech in Philadelphia, people saw a president.”

The piece ends with this summation from Axelrod:

We believed in him, and we believed in the cause. And we believed in each other. And by the end of this thing, over two years, you forge relationships. And we’re like a family. The hardest thing about this is that it’s ended now. It’s like the end of the movie M*A*S*H…The war’s over. We’re all going home. And we want to go home. But, on the other hand, it’s sort of a bit of melancholy because we’ve come to love each other and believe in each other. And we know that this will never be the same.

The same thing is true about America.


Charles Kaiser is the author of The Gay Metropolis and 1968 in America. He has been media editor for Newsweek, a member of the metro staff of The New York Times, and a reporter for The Wall Street Journal, where he covered the press and book publishing. To learn more, visit charleskaiser.com.