President Obama's campaign arm, Organize for America, has begun hosting a series of events in key primary and general election states that could have long-term political implications.
This week, and into the next, OFA is conducting a "listening tour," in which group officials engage directly with local communities about pertinent national issues. The public purpose of the new venture, says spokesperson Natalie Wyeth, is to provide supporters "with the tools they need to keep these conversations going across kitchen tables, on front porches and in their own neighborhoods."
"The events will also serve as an opportunity for local supporters and volunteers to meet our newly-hired state directors and offer ideas about what organizing approaches might work best in their communities," Wyeth added.
But looking at the states where these events are being held, it's tough not to read the electoral tea leaves. The tour will land in Colorado, Wisconsin, Texas, New Mexico, Indiana, Missouri and Iowa. Of those states, all but one -- Texas -- were competitive during the 2008 election. And during the Democratic primary, Team Obama made a yeoman's effort to organize in the Lone Star State.
In a way, the listening tour serves a dual function: getting the national Democratic party an outside-the-Beltway sense of the issues on supporters' minds, and giving those supporters the sense that they are being tended to by the people they voted into office. The philosophical thread behind this seems drawn from Howard Dean's 50-state strategy. Back in 2004, the former DNC Chair calculated that if Sen. John Kerry had received ten additional votes per precinct, he would have become president. Organizing events in these states -- where the party apparatus is still being built -- allows OFA to bring more people into the tent and puts the pressure on the GOP to match suit.
UPDATE: Wyeth writes in to add that OFA will also host events in "California, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, West Virginia and more as we move forward and bring on more state staff."