In the 2004 primaries, the Dean campaign was hyped in the press as a grassroots revolution that was changing presidential organizing forever. But on Caucus day in Iowa, the Kerry campaign dominated -- a campaign that had notoriously little grassroots appeal.
The same "On the Bus" press that had hyped the Dean revolution quickly declared it had all been smoke and mirrors. But there was almost no detailed research or analysis of what had actually taken place.
This time around, can OffTheBus fill that gap in campaign reporting, and discover what's really going on in the world of presidential field organizing? We think we can, but only with your help.
The reason the "On the Bus" crowd has difficulty covering field organizing well is that you can't write an accurate story about the field based on a handful quotes from campaign operatives. Instead, you need to have a view into hundreds of campaign offices and thousands of campaign events. That's impossible for reporters who are stuck "On the Bus."
But it's exactly what OffTheBus, with more than 1,500 volunteers, is poised to do. We need your help. We need as many OffTheBus volunteers as we can get to begin attending campaign events and filing reports about their experiences.
We'll be looking for details regarding how organizers conduct themselves, how well they follow up, how much effort they are putting into leadership training and development, and more.
Already, it's possible to see some dramatic differences -- at least on the surface -- of how campaigns are organizing. For example, look at the top three Democratic contenders in Iowa. Right now, on their websites you can see that:
- Barack Obama has several dozen events planned in Iowa -- different kinds, and many apparently organized by volunteers. Any supporter who wants to can jump on the campaign website, plan their own event, and get others involved.
- John Edwards had an incredible 54 debate watch parties for Wednesday's debate.They appear to be organized by staff or supporters in close coordination with staff.
- Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, has almost no events listed on the campaign website in Iowa.
What's behind these differences? Is the Clinton campaign taking a less flashy, but more methodical approach to organization-building? Do all those Edwards debate watching parties indicate that they've already built a very strong organization? And are they using the parties to build it even stronger? And what's going on at all these Obama supporter-organized events? Is it the Dean-era chaos all over again? Or have organizers found a way to meld bottom-up self-organizing with accountability and results?
We would like to be able to answer those questions and more, not only in Iowa, but across all the early primary states and the country as a whole.
But we can only do it with your help. Let us know that you'd like to get involved by signing up here.
Please sign up today that we can let you know about specific assignments in your area.
And you can get started right away by finding any candidate's event in your area and attending as early as today.