The Army of the Potomac

A friend of mine got up very early Sunday morning and drove to a large parking lot in Bethesda, Maryland—and no empty lot, but one teeming with campaign workers busily dispatching troops.


A friend of mine got up very early Sunday morning and drove to a large parking lot in Bethesda, Maryland—and no empty lot, but one teeming with campaign workers busily dispatching troops. She was there to knock on doors for the Obama campaign, and told me later of the martial precision of those in charge of volunteers like her. A woman in her mid-40s, my friend was processed like a new recruit joining the Marines. One person had her name on a list and details about where she was needed that day (she was being sent to Richmond, while some were going elsewhere in Virginia or up into Pennsylvania); another had handouts for her that included talking points; another had campaign materials; still another a map to guide her to her destination; and so on. There was no milling about aimlessly, trying to get someone’s attention. No confusion as to her assignment for the day. She was inducted, equipped and on her way.And that reminded me of the operation I saw as early as July a year and a half ago in Iowa. The process would be fine-tuned, certainly, as the campaign’s experience and staff steadily grew. But Obama’s operation was defined like no other campaign this cycle, Democrat or Republican, by two things: a supremely disciplined organization and a legion of volunteers that made this vast grassroots effort possible. So far we have seen it vanquish the Hillary Clinton campaign, which was itself thought to be an invincible machine. If the Obama army goes down to defeat this time, analysts everywhere will be trying to understand exactly what trumped its organization and enthusiasm. The polls suggest, however, that it will finish the job and seize the objective, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Disciplined armies, with lots of soldier, do have a tendency to win. Bill Beaman is editor-in-chief of Politics magazine. wbeaman@politicsmagazine.com


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