In the 2008 president election, Barack Obama and his campaign team benefited from an amazing political infrastructure, including legions of volunteers, state and local affiliates, and arguably the most impressive voter-contact list ever assembled. And then after the 2008 election, the president and his team weren't quite sure what to do with it.
As Obama's attention shifted from campaigning to governing, "Obama for America" became "Organizing for America," which in turn was placed within the Democratic National Committee. As an entity unto itself, OFA's impact was largely muted.
In 2012, the president's team put together an even more impressive operation, and this time, they're prepared to do something different with the venture they assembled.
As he launches his second term, President Obama may get help from an ambitious new political organization being built out of his reelection campaign, a group that could reshape how future presidents harness supporters to press their White House agendas.
Run by former Obama campaign officials, the advocacy group will seek to leverage the campaign's sophisticated organizing tools and rich voter database to support the president's policy objectives, including raising the debt ceiling, gun control and immigration reform.
If it is able to sustain the passion that propelled Obama twice into the White House, the pro-Obama group may outstrip the role played by traditional interest groups, from organized labor to the environmental movement, and could form an independent power base outside the White House and the Democratic Party.
This is no small development in Democratic politics. This weekend, an event called the Obama Legacy Conference will feature 4,000 former campaign staff and volunteers, all of whom will kick off a new political group with an imposing database, voter list, donor-outreach program, and volunteer network of well-trained, highly-motivated progressives, led by veteran Obama aides who clearly know how to win.
And if that doesn't give Republicans pause, they're not paying close enough attention.
BuzzFeed added that this new group, which will reportedly be called "Organizing for Action," will be in the same form as Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS the advocacy arm of his super PAC American Crossroads. In this case, however, the president's organization, it was announced this morning, will voluntarily disclose its donors, which Rove's attack group refuses to do.
Politico reported that Jim Messina, the president's 2008 campaign manager, will serve as the national chair of the group, making Messina "the de facto political director for Obama."
Messina, a frequent visitor to the West Wing since the election, was Obama's chief in-house political aide during the legislative battles of 2009 and 2010 and is expected to expand that role on the outside, Democrats close to the situation tell POLITICO. Messina is especially adept at assembling coalitions and keeping them from splintering during tough political fights, a necessity if Obama hopes to marshal public support for his agenda on guns, immigration and the budget.
The Obama campaign finished with an unmatched list of millions of email addresses of supporters and volunteers tagged by geography and degree of devotion that was perhaps Obama's biggest advantage in mobilizing support for his second-term agenda. The campaign developed extensive technology for use in its organizing and finished with $5.3 million still in the campaign coffers.
I also learned this morning that Jon Carson is leaving the White House to run the group's day-to-day operations.
For the record, this new Obama group will not be a super PAC, though Priorities USA Action, also created by former aides to the president, isn't going away.