THE BLOG
10/09/2008 02:33 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

How Obama's Campaign Strategy Will Deliver Michigan


There are three separate pieces of information about the presidential race in Michigan that, taken as a whole, point to very good news for the Obama campaign in November:

1. The registration of young people is HUGE and getting EVEN BIGGER.

2. The percentage of young people who voted in the primary in Michigan was much larger than usual this year, even though Senator Obama was not on the ticket.

3. The Obama campaign's internet presence dwarfs that of McCain's and that, combined with his perception among most young people that he's "cool" is a very motivating factor in getting them to vote.

Voter Registration of Young People

To give you an example of the extent of voter registration success among the under-30 age group, in Ann Arbor, the campus Dems report that they have registered over 12,000 students from the University of Michigan. An article in the Detroit Free Press this week indicates they are hardly finished with this task:

The Michigan State University sophomore wants Democrat Barack Obama to become the next president. So she spends hours each day trolling the streets and dorms of East Lansing to find the next potential voter, still unregistered, who might push Obama over the top.

The Obama campaign intern is among many supporters trying to help register 150,000 new voters by the state's Oct. 6 deadline.

By contrast, the Republican Party and the campaign for its nominee, John McCain, are putting more effort into identifying registered voters and making sure they get their message and vote, said Bill Nowling, a GOP spokesman.

Summary: The Obama campaign is focusing on young voters. The McCain campaign is not. And for good reason. McCain has very little appeal among this age group.

Voter Turn-out Among Young People

Voter turn-out among voters under 30 is typically low. Pathetically low, actually, and often less than 50%. However, young voters turned out in 2004 at levels nearly 25% higher than in 2000. Looking at the primaries where voting is already notoriously low, young people in Michigan are voting in increasingly high numbers each election. In fact, participation
by this group nearly doubled from 9% to 17% from 2000 to 2008, even with several candidates not appearing on the ballot. With the additional focus being put on young voters by the Obama campaign, their turnout this November is expected to be considerably higher.

Internet Presence of Obama vs. McCain

There is no question that the Obama campaign has owned the McCain campaign on the internet.

"I think it's fair to say that no other candidate has even come close to the online efforts of the Obama campaign," says Andrew Lipsman, senior analyst at comScore, the digital marketing research firm that released the report.

Overall, the comparison showed a "widening gap between the two campaigns," says Lipsman. "The Obama site had a lot more visitors, much heavier display advertising and more Web searches."

Obama has active groups on Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, YouTube, Flickr, Digg, Eventful, LinkedIn, BlackPlanet, Faithbase, Eons, Glee, MiGente, MyBatanga and AsianAve. My daughter, a junior at Michigan State University, tells me that Obama is "everywhere". Kids think he's cool and they are excited about him. The flooding of the internet with his message is undoubtedly making the difference and it is helped along by groups like "Rock the Vote" and by the increasing outspokenness of celebrities and music artists. And college-aged students are using the internet to share their own political views in increasing numbers as a result of the proliferation of online social groups.

From MLive:

Obama's 1.3 million "friends" wins him the virtual popularity contest over McCain's 191,300 online supporters.

[Assistant professor of communication at the University of Michigan-Flint Marcus] Paroske believes this wired generation may feel more directly involved with the election process through media they create themselves on such outlets as Facebook, which started in 2004.

"You can't overestimate the importance of that particular kind of approach to engaging young people," he said. "The difference here is the arguments are not coming from a campaign or candidates. They are coming from your peers."

These three factors are likely to be keys to a Barack Obama success in Michigan this November. However, the result is not likely to be reflected in the pre-election polls because newly registered voters are generally not included in polls and young people rely nearly entire on mobile phones, another group typically not polled.

If 2008 is the year that Democrats finally get young voters engaged, excited and energized enough to get out to the polls, it could transform the election. The Obama campaign is poised with a massive Get Out the Vote push leading up to election day. If the numbers of young people who respond are high enough, an Obama win in Michigan will be decisive.