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In November of 2011, The New York Times ran a cover story titled “Is Obama Toast?” Polling wunderkind Nate Silver estimated the president’s reelection chances at 17 percent. No president had been reelected with less than a 50 percent job approval rating—President Obama was polling in the low 40s. No president since FDR had won a second term in office when the unemployment rate on Election Day topped 7.2 percent. In the fall of 2011, the unemployment rate averaged nine percent. The President’s team needed to figure out how to defy conventional wisdom. To do this, it couldn’t run the 2008 campaign in 2012—it had to be more targeted, disciplined and organized.
In 2012, Precision partners Stephanie Cutter, Jen O’Malley Dillon, and Teddy Goff led the President’s reelection team to victory by running the most sophisticated, data-driven presidential campaign in history. In fact, the majority of Precision Strategies’ team was part of that historic effort.
The Obama for America campaign focused on four key things: 1) defining the race early; 2) revolutionizing the way campaigns communicated with voters, the media, and supporters; 3) taking unpredictability out of vote scenarios by inventing new ways to collect and capitalize on data and 4) running the largest field organization in history. As a result, the campaign raised $690 million online, registered 2.9 million voters, recruited 2.2 million volunteers, grew Facebook and Twitter followings of more than 45 and 33 million people respectively, and successfully communicated our research-driven, disciplined message to tens of millions of undecided voters through paid, earned, and social media.
As deputy campaign manager, Stephanie oversaw media, message, policy, and research. With more than $260 million in advertising, thousands of surrogates, more than a dozen specific battleground state campaigns and significant national and regional earned media efforts, the Obama campaign demonstrated unprecedented message discipline, set the narrative, left no attack unanswered, and defined the race early—which proved critical to defeating Governor Romney and achieving victory.
Underlying the messaging: the strategy on the ground. Jen led the largest campaign field organization in history, oversaw voter protection and registration, and led the evolution of the use of data and analytics in political campaigning to target, register, persuade and mobilize voters. She also built a culture of testing and experimentation through all aspects of the organization, expanding its usage to every area of the campaign—including voter contact and organizing, media, digital, fundraising and communication.
Interacting with and supplementing the comms and field efforts, Teddy served as the Digital Director for Obama for America. In that capacity, he oversaw a team of more than 200 people nationwide who managed the campaign’s social media, email, web, online advertising, online organizing, design, front-end and product development, design, and video strategies.
According to TIME Magazine, “the goals were the same as ever: more money in the bank, more door knocks, more phone calls, more voter registrations and more voters at the polls. But the methods for achieving those ends in 2012 bordered on the revolutionary.” Teddy’s team built Facebook and Twitter followings of more than 45 and 33 million people respectively, raised more than $690 million, registered more than a million voters online, ran more than $100 million in online media spend (the largest such program in political history), built groundbreaking tools for online fundraising and campaigning, and organized hundreds of thousands of volunteers and events through their proprietary organizing platform, Dashboard.
The Bottom Line
Thanks to our efforts to marry message with data, digital technology and strategy, and the most localized ground effort in history, the President and his team defied both history and conventional wisdom. In the end, we secured 62,611,250 votes, had 2.2 million volunteers, and registered 2.9 million voters.