Tuesday, July 15, 2008

New kind of politics: Obama names his price

Ryan Lizza's reality-principled Obama bio in next week's New Yorker reveals Obama as the Garry Kasparov of American politics (Kasparov the chess player, that is, not the politician) -- always able to plot several moves ahead to advance his own ascent (and sometimes get things done).

Exhibit A in this preternatural skill set is how the candidate understood and mastered the transition from ward politics -- in which one's operatives target, incent, pressure and physically move voters - to media politics - "TV, radio, direct mail, phone-banking, robocalls." In fact, Obama is shown to be master of both - GOTV and TV.

By the time he ran for the Senate in 2002, Obama had the new politics down to the point where he could put a price tag on the office (barring the entry of Carol Moseley Braun, whom he knew he couldn't beat). According to his best friend Marty Nesbitt:

“He didn’t start telling people he was interested in running for Senate until he figured out what the road map was,” Nesbitt said. “He had a good sense of the odds, and he knew there were certain things that had to happen. . . .

“Then he just laid out an economic analysis. It becomes about money, because he knew that if people knew his story they would view him as a better candidate than anybody else he thought might be in the field. And so he said, ‘Therefore, if you raise five million dollars, I have a fifty-per-cent chance of winning. If you raise seven million dollars, I have a seventy-per-cent chance of winning. If you raise ten million dollars, I guarantee victory” (emphasis added).

Multiply that by about fifty, and I'd bet my blog Obama's told his backers the same thing this time around. Give him the money, and it's a lock. Funny thing is, over a million and a half backers have bought the pitch.

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