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WASHINGTON, November 8 (By Sasha Horne for RIA Novosti) - Within minutes of American media outlets announcing US President Barack Obama won a second term in the White House, the conversation quickly shifted to how he was able to pull it off with a low approval rating and a sluggish economy.
While many factors including Hispanic and young voter participation played a role in the president’s reelection, analysts say it was the Obama camp’s ability to enlist foot soldiers to spread his message in local communities that propelled him to four more years in office.
Just days before the election, Obama’s running mate Vice President Joe Biden, visited with campaign volunteers in a small town in the state of Colorado according to a CNN report.
"The ground operation which you guys represent is the best in the history of presidential politics," said Biden to campaign workers. "I'm telling you, it's this way in Virginia, it's this way in Florida, and I think that the one thing that is going to fundamentally make the difference is you guys -- for real," he said.
In comparison to the efforts of Obama’s challenger, Republican Mitt Romney, the Obama campaign had more than double the number of campaign field offices in key swing states including Ohio, Florida, and Virginia.
“The Romney campaign doesn’t do the ground game,” Rick Wiley, the Republican National Committee’s (RNC) political director told reporter Molly Ball with The Atlantic magazine.
Instead, the RNC led Romney’s field operations but, “the disadvantage of this is that the RNC is composed of its state Republican Parties, which vary dramatically in quality,” writes Ball.
And while some states like Virginia and Florida have strong state level Republican operations, Ball says most of the Republican field offices she visited focused more on state and local elections, than Romney’s presidential bid, while the Obama field offices directed their attention squarely on the president.
During the 2008 campaign, Obama’s team built what many cite as the largest grassroots organization in the history of American politics, and used technology to engage prospective voters and mobilize campaign volunteers in a way that had never been done before.
This time around, Obama’s staff combined grassroots campaigning with technology, creating a canvassing application for smartphones that was released back in July.
“The Obama campaign created a fantastic piece of technology where their supporters can download the app and become canvassers, empowering individuals to go door to door,” said Vincent Harris, a digital campaign strategist who ran online operations for two Republican presidential contenders - Texas Governor Rick Perry and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.
The New York Times raved about the app shortly after its release, describing it as something out of a political operative’s science-fiction dream: “An army of volunteers, connected to the Internet as they walk door to door, looking up names on a device and entering their responses electronically.”
With the application, the Obama campaign eliminated the need for would-be volunteers to trek to campaign offices and make calls at a traditional phone bank. Instead, equipped with smartphones, these supporters could reach out to potential voters from their living rooms.
“Our focus remains on helping make grass-roots organizing as easy and accessible as possible for the volunteers and supporters that are the heart and soul of this campaign,” said Stephanie Cutter, Obama’s deputy campaign manager.
Political strategist’s like Harris say while the Republican Party did do more to embrace technology in this election cycle, there is still work to be done. Moving forward, Harris said he hopes Republican operatives will expand on the Obama campaign’s “brilliant way” of integrating the use of technology to “empower citizen’s democracy.”
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