Pomona College Magazine
Volume 45, No. 3
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Pomona College Magazine is published three times a year by Pomona College
550 N. College Ave, Claremont, CA 91711

Online Editor: Laura Tiffany

For editorial matters:
Editor: Mark Wood
Phone: (909) 621-8158
Fax: (909) 621-8203

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Contact Alumni Records for changes of address, class notes, or notice of births or deaths.
Phone: (909) 621-8635
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Email: alumni@pomona.edu
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Talk of the Campus / The Obama Campaign
How the White House Was Won

This spring, David Plouffe, campaign manager for Barack Obama, kicked off the College’s new distinguished speaker series with a behind-the-scenes look at how the White House was won. Three of the “underappreciated reasons” Plouffe cited for the Obama victory were:

• Sticking to a well-defined message and electoral strategy from the beginning;
• Defying conventional wisdom and taking risks, such as concentrating on Iowa during the primaries and airing a 30-minute TV special last October; and
• The campaign’s powerful grassroots support.

Plouffe focused heavily on this last item, noting that volunteers were critical in providing early organization in states even before the primaries, giving the campaign a base to work with, and in expanding the electorate by targeting disaffected voters, young voters, Republicans and independents.

He also explained the high pressure put on volunteer coordinators who could be “fired” if they weren’t working up to standards; how data from volunteer efforts was more important than polls; and how the self-motivated gathering of supporters online was a crucial component in winning the primaries. Also vital was the movement of online messages sent directly to volunteers, a medium President Obama still employs as a way of helping people get around the “conflict-driven media.”

Finally, Plouffe pointed to the role of grassroots support in funding the campaign. Out of the four million donations the campaign received, Plouffe noted that students were the second largest donor group (by employment category) behind retirees.

Even during his audience Q&A session, Plouffe focused on the power of the people.

“One of the great things about our country and our politics is the unexpected can happen, and the people have a role in shaping it,” said Plouffe. “The people fueled this campaign…. In the general election, we got a lot of wonderful help from Democratic elected officials and interest groups. But they were the caboose, not the engine. The people were our engine.”

The new Pomona College distinguished lecture series, inaugurated by Plouffe, will bring to campus exciting, high profile speakers from public life—“men and women who have changed policies and institutions through their actions,” as Pomona College President David Oxtoby put it.

In addition to the public lectures, the speakers will engage small groups of the College community in more informal settings, as Plouffe did by meeting with a group of students before his talk in Bridges Auditorium. The series was established with a generous three-year commitment from the Broe family of Denver.
—Laura Tiffany

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by Pomona College
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