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Obama's Field Team Finally Hitting the Field

03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Dawn Teo Foster Children's Rights Coalition - FosteringRights.org

Almost a year after Barack Obama was elected President, Organizing for America (OFA) will launch its first major day of action, which it hopes will ultimately generate over 100,000 calls to Congress in a public push for Obama's health care reform plan. Obama will even kickoff the nationwide events by speaking live via webcast.

Statements from OFA about leveraging Obama's base usually avoid metrics and hard numbers and are often prefaced with phrases like, "We're working on it," or "We're getting there." -- for good reason. After the election, when Obama for America (OFA) became Organizing for America (OFA), it was also gutted by the White House transition team.

After Election Day, President Barack Obama hand picked just two former staffers, Mitch Stewart and Jeremy Bird, to run the new organization: OFA 2.0, aka the President's field team. Other top campaign staffers were put into key roles in the Presidential administration. By Inauguration Day, OFA was left only with Stewart and Bird to hire and train staff for all 50 states -- one by one -- and rebuild a nationwide infrastructure, a gargantuan task that stretched throughout this year.

National Deputy Director Jeremy Bird sums it up, "On inauguration day, OFA was 2 people and an idea." Ramping up OFA 2.0 was a long, arduous process. When we asked HuffPost readers to submit their questions to OFA leaders in September, the most-asked question was, "Why isn't OFA doing more?"

When I asked Bird the pointed question, "Why aren't you doing more?" He had a motivational message for impatient supporters, "You is us. Go to a local event. If there is no local event, if not enough is going on in your area, set something up."

The Obama campaign was famous for letting go of the controls and letting supporters organize their own events on their website (aka, MyBO), and that hasn't changed. But Bird says putting events together is the easy part - that's mobilization, which he differentiates from organizing, "One is instant, the other is long-term," he says, "It's not about one day or one campaign."

OFA isn't just a new entity. It's a new type of entity. Politicians don't usually want to engage campaign supporters after the election. Giving
speeches and convincing folks a politician is the lesser of two evils during an election is
(relatively) easy compared to the legislative process,
which is rife with compromises and let-downs that often disillusion supporters. Most politicians prefer for campaign volunteers to become dormant when the messy post-election legislative process begins; they want to keep them in the dark. They don't want to risk losing those supporters before the next re-election campaign.

Today, OFA finally has a ground team in place in all 50 states with the primary goal of keeping Obama supporters informed and mobilized around the legislative process. Tuesday, they will host house parties, rallies, sidewalk phone booths, and other events, all to generate hundreds of thousands of calls to voters for the "Time to Deliver" health insurance reform campaign. Obama will speak live via webcast to kickoff the events. The ultimate goal of the day: 100,000 calls from constituents to Congress to support health insurance reform.

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