Tuesday, 13 November 2012

NEWS FEATURE: US 2012 election - Organization beats big money

A graph shows the latest voters' distribution - Photo courtesy of Statista


ORGANIZATION had prevailed over big money.

But it was more out of fear about what might happen under a Republican regime than the supporters’ passion for Barack Obama that made many Americans spirited campaign workers to get the incumbent president re-elected.

This was how Parker Borg, former US Ambassador to Mali and Iceland, analysed the just-concluded election where Barack Obama has been re-elected president of the United States after fiercely fighting campaign dollar-awash Mitt Romney.

Writing exclusively for MWBuzz Borg said: The key to the Obama victory and the defeat of the big money was probably the sophisticated "ground game", where his wife Anna and he and thousands of other volunteers-participated in Virginia. 

US President Barack Obama (left) sits with campaign volunteer Suzanne Stern as he makes calls from a campaign office in Williamsburg, Virginia. –

He wrote his impression on the US election upon MWBuzz’s request (see Borg’s full article in this edition).

Borg, who was among the first batch of Peace Corps Volunteers sent to the Philippines by President Kennedy in 1961 and assigned to Jose Panganiban Elementary School and JP High School, had campaign hard in Virginia for Obama in 2008 when he first run for the White House and in the just concluded presidential election where he sought re-election.

He said the Obama campaign machinery for this year’s election had lacked the enthusiasm it had in 2008.

Borg had observed that at the beginning of the election cycle, “it was apparent that the President's core supporters lacked their 2008 enthusiasm, largely because of disappointments over his record”.

On the other hand, the Republicans were highly motivated to toss Obama out of office so they might pursue their traditional conservative agenda, according to Borg. 

 “Although we (he and wife Anna) both liked Obama and believed he'd made the best of a bad situation, it was more out of fear about what might happen under a Republican Administration than our passion for Obama that made us part-time campaign workers in our home state of Virginia where we've lived off and on these past twenty years.”   

Borg said Obama’s campaign had been one of the most organized movements in a US election where no stone had been left unturned -- one factor that made him won the 2008 presidential election.

Campaign volunteers pass out signs before a rally with President Barack Obama on the campus of the College of Southern Nevada in North Las Vegas. – Picture courtesy of GettyImages
He said that the campaign has zeroed in on one most important item in their day-to-day work to generate interest among potential voters and turn them into votes for the Democratic candidate.

Borg said that “quite skillfully, the Democratic Party had determined the names and addresses of vast numbers of likely supporters who might not be regular voters.  

“They found phone numbers and mapped out the streets where these people lived.”

Borg said that he himself had made several phone calls on listed numbers from the Obama-Biden campaign office in Virginia trying to find out whether the one answering was a Democrat and to convince him/her to go out on election day and vote.  

“On the weekend before the election, we went to an Obama/Biden election office where we received maps and packets of 60-75 names and addresses so that we might go door-to-door every day from Saturday until Election Day to talk with people, remind them to vote, tell them the location of their precinct, and offer them rides to the polls if necessary. 

“Hundreds of others were doing exactly the same thing in neighboring communities. Likewise, other volunteers contacted people from phone banks with the same messages.  

“These volunteer activities were coordinated from all of 71 separate Obama offices in Virginia, each with a big sign saying "Obama/Biden" above the door with a dozen or so volunteers on the inside answering questions and coordinating voter outreach. 

Borg said that in tracking campaign appearances by the candidates and funding on advertising, it's important to note that many of the most important states receive almost no attention because they are reliably Democratic (like New York, California, Illinois, and Massachusetts) or reliably Republican (like Texas, Georgia, Utah, and Wyoming).  

He recalled that in the final weeks of the campaign, neither Obama nor Romney held rallies in these states or any of the big metropolitan areas of New York, Los Angeles, Boston, Chicago, Atlanta or Houston. 

 “The rallies all took place in cities and small towns of the battleground states.” 

All the advertising attention was focused on these areas, Borg said.  

Looking at an electoral map after the election, one can see that Obama won most of the states in the northeastern quarter of the country and in the western coastal areas.  

He said that the electoral map would show that Obama won most states in the northeastern quarter of the US and in the western coastal areas that included California, where a big concentration of Filipino-Americans is concentrated.

Borg has observed that the challenger won most of the states in the southeast and western plains and mountains.

However, this is simplistic, but it's the way things work in winner-take-all elections, he said. 

A closer look of each state would reveal that the Democrats generally won the urban areas and the close-in suburbs in almost every state.

The Republicans won in outer suburbs and rural areas, Borg said.

A second way to look at the election results is to see which demographic group was voting for each candidate, Borg said.  

Early figures showed that while Romney won the plurality votes among males (52%), whites (59%), and evangelical protestant (perhaps 70%), Obama won among women (55%), Blacks (93%), Hispanics (71%), Asians (73%) people under 44 years of age (60% under 30 and 52% under 44), and with incomes below US$50,000 per year.  

Borg said: “The Catholic vote was split in half, which was surprising because of the strong role of the Catholic Church is support of conservative social issues.”  

 “White males,” he said, “strongly voted in his favor, particularly older and wealthy ones.”

Borg said that because of a Supreme Court ruling that permitted unlimited contributions to Political Action Committees (PACs) without identifying contributors, vast amounts of money flowed from some of these rich white guys into the conservative's campaign in a desperate effort to defeat the President.  

“President Obama also had a big campaign chest of funds, but these came more heavily from smaller donors,” he concluded.
(Parker Borg was the US Ambassador to Mali (1981-1984) and US Ambassador to Iceland (1993-1996))

For comment, email the writer: ahernandez@thenational.com.pg and alfredophernandez@y7mail.com

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