Howard Dean & Barack Obama

How Howard Dean revived the Democratic party
  • Boston Herald "The pioneering that Dean and aide Joe Trippi did on Internet fund-raising served as a model for Obama’s greatly expanded operation which raised more than $100 million."
  • Speech. We raised more money than the RNC, and we did so by attracting thousands of new small donors ... We trained tens of thousands of new activists ... Now we need to build on our successes while transforming the Democratic Party into a grassroots organization that can win in 50 states.
  • Conservative view. "Part of what made Obama's vaunted online operation succeed where Howard Dean's fizzled—and this is something his online people themselves always stress—was that it was an organic component of the broader brick-and-mortar campaign."
Why Obama won
  • Politico. "The campaign’s early decision to play on a more ambitious map than other Democratic nominees was the source of his mandate"
  • Washington Post, Feb. 2007. "The gathering of several thousand students at George Mason University in Fairfax underscored the potential power of online communities in the 2008 campaign. Its genesis was a group created last summer on, a Web site frequented by college students who post profiles and assemble virtually." "Another Facebook group, Barack Obama (One Million Strong for Barack), was started less than three weeks ago and has already recruited 200,000 members."
  • Advertising chess at the LA Times. "Obama has “stretched the playing field,” said Edward Carmines, who teaches political science at Indiana University. “Now, in the last month of the campaign, Sen. McCain is having to make very tough decisions where to spend his money.”"
  • The $5 philanthopist @, Feb 2008. According to Barack Obama's official website, more than 280,000 people have created accounts on From those online accounts, 6,500 grassroots volunteer groups have been created and more than 13,000 off-line events have been organized through the site. Over 370,000 individual online donations have been made, more than half of which are less than $25 donations .And most interesting to me, personal fundraising pages (individual fundraising pages where you proactively recruit your social network to donate through your personal fundraising page) have raised over $1.5m.
  • The Atlantic -- mid-campaign. Thoughtful. "Obama’s machine attracts large and small donors alike, those who want to give money and those who want to raise it, [emphasis mine] veteran activists and first-time contributors ... If the most that any one person could write a check for was $2,000 [it was said] then the important people suddenly became those who would put their hand up and say, ‘I’ll raise $50,000 or $100,000.’ ... North and Gorenberg borrowed the subscription model for their “Win Back the House” project. Instead of asking for a big check up front, as they would for a presidential candidate, they invited each of their House candidates to the Bay Area over the course of the year, so that supporters could give recurrent, but smaller, donations ... As before, the emphasis was not on writing big checks but on building raiser networks, including people who couldn’t contribute much themselves." "The purpose of social networking is to connect friends and share information, its animating idea being that people will do this more readily and comfortably when the information comes to them from a friend rather than from a newspaper or expert or similarly distant authority they don’t know and trust ... When launched, at the start of the campaign, its lineage was clear. The site is a social-networking hub centered on the candidate and designed to give users a practically unlimited array of ways to participate in the campaign. You can register to vote or start your own affinity group, with a listserv for your friends. You can download an Obama news widget to stay current, or another one (which Spinner found) that scrolls Obama’s biography, with pictures, in an endless loop. You can click a “Make Calls” button, receive a list of phone numbers, and spread the good news to voters across the country, right there in your home. You can get text-message updates on your mobile phone and choose from among 12 Obama-themed ring tones, so that each time Mom calls you will hear Barack Obama cry “Yes we can!” and be reminded that Mom should register to vote, too ... It’s not enough to have a bumper sticker. We want you to give five dollars, make some calls, host an event. If you look at the messages we send to people over time, there’s a presumption that they will organize ... The true killer app on is the suite of fund-raising tools. You can, of course, click on a button and make a donation, or you can sign up for the subscription model, as thousands already have, and donate a little every month. You can set up your own page, establish your target number, pound your friends into submission with e-mails to pony up, and watch your personal fund-raising “thermometer” rise. “The idea,” Rospars says, “is to give them the tools and have them go out and do all this on their own.” The organizing principle behind Obama’s Web site, in other words, is the approach Mark Gorenberg used with such success—only scaled to such a degree that it has created an army of more than a million donors and raisers ... The most striking thing about all this was that the headquarters is entirely self-sufficient—not a dime has come from the Obama campaign. Instead, everything from the computers to the telephones to the doughnuts and coffee—even the building’s rent and utilities—is user-generated, arranged and paid for by local volunteers. It is one of several such examples across the country, and no other campaign has put together anything that can match this level of self-sufficiency ... In February, the Obama campaign reported that 94 percent of their donations came in increments of $200 or less, versus 26 percent for Clinton and 13 percent for McCain. Obama’s claim of 1,276,000 donors through March is so large that Clinton doesn’t bother to compete; she stopped regularly providing her own number last year. [emphasis mine] “If the typical Gore event was 20 people in a living room writing six-figure checks,” Gorenberg told me, “and the Kerry event was 2,000 people in a hotel ballroom writing four-figure checks, this year for Obama we have stadium rallies of 20,000 people who pay absolutely nothing, and then go home and contribute a few dollars online ... It’s possible to track the network effects [emphasis mine] in the growing fund-raising numbers that seem to arrive in ever larger denominations: $25 million … $30 million … $35 million … in February, the staggering $55 million—nearly $2 million a day.