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Obama's "Organizing for America" Starts to Move

BY Micah L. Sifry | Wednesday, February 4 2009

We will soon know just how big the sleeping giant of American politics, now known as Organizing for America (OFA, for short) actually is.

That's because earlier today, David Plouffe, the group's de-facto boss, sent out an email asking Obama supporters to watch a video of the President defending his economic stimulus plan and urging them to share the video with others. At the same time, OFA has put out a call to its most active volunteers to organize "Economic Recovery House Meetings" for this weekend, and you can search for specifics on nearby meetings on the OFA website.

Which means, for us number-crunchers here at techPresident, fresh data. So far, the Obama economic recovery video has garnered more than 42,000 YouTube views, just hours after its posting. That's not much, but it's early. So far, an earlier video by Obama announcing OFA has nearly 500,000 views, and a more recent video by Plouffe introducing Mitch Stewart as OFA's new executive director has garnered a little more than 300,000. As for the number of house parties, the number is a reported 2,300 and climbing--which isn't far off from the number of post-election house parties OFA held back in December. Tracking the number of views of this new direct appeal from Obama, plus the number of reported house parties, should be a good indication of what kind of traction among the base he's got.

Yesterday evening, OFA held a mass conference call with "thousands" of core volunteers, the so-called "Super volunteers" and "Team Leaders" who were at the heart of Obama's network on the ground. Plouffe, Stewart and Jeremy Bird, another top field staffer who has been named deputy director of OFA, led the call. According to notes taken during the call that were shared with me by a source, Stewart told the people listening that his team was still at work on OFA's comprehensive plan and that they want lots of input. That said, Stewart added (and treat these as paraphrases as they come from the notes):

1. Fundamental belief is still “If you build it they will come”. Infrastructure during campaign was incredible. No other campaign in history had the offices, staff, house party hosts etc. to support this campaign in every state in the country the way we did. Now, there will be a “chief” house party leader in every state and we need all of you to become the support staff for these people who you can bounce ideas off of and help share ideas with the community. House parties will be a key component to this organization. People who host house parties will be invited monthly for conference calls to be updated by OFA on what is coming next.

2. Trainings are helpful and need to be continued. How to organize, message training, etc. will need to continue. Part of our role will be to continue trainings in our communities.

3. Feedback really matters. Organization will need us to drive agenda with tactics, strategy. Who we need to reach out to and talk to in order to make sure that the agenda becomes a reality.

4. We are the leaders of this organization and without our energy and enthusiasm; Obama’s agenda will not be implemented. Strategy and policy updates will be given to us before they are released publicly as a thank you for all that we have done.

5. Want to have these conference calls once a month. Will do polling during each call to find out where we stand and what we think about what they are doing.

Bird then spoke about the house parties called for this weekend, saying that they wanted everyone on the call to host one to discuss the President's economic stimulus plan.

We are personally being asked by Pres[ident] Obama for help in spreading the word and building support not just in congress, but in each community across the nation. He wants us to discuss how this plan will affect our lives and how it will affect the lives of individuals all across the US.

This Thursday we will all be emailed a final kit for the house party with sign up forms, video, talking points, etc. In the meantime, we are all invited to submit questions to governor [Tim Kaine, the new DNC chair]. He will try to answer as many of those questions as possible. You can download the video to show at the house party or show the video directly from your computer.

Al Giordano has a similar report on the OFA conference call on his blog, The Field. Al also reports from his own sources that OFA has more plans in store:

1. A new website: Similar to MyBO, which will be a complete online support system to compliment the bricks-and-mortar organization.

2. A new voter file: The veteran field organizers and data entry volunteers are very excited about this. "Votebuilder was really great," notes one, "but it had some real limitations."

3. New methods of grassroots fundraising: "This is obviously going to be an expensive endeavour," one source tells The Field, "and they're looking to get creative."

4. New "Fellows" programs: Expect another big intern and training push for this upcoming summer.

As Al writes, the OFA team seems to be carefully laying down the foundation for a pretty broad-based organization, using these conference calls and house parties not only to mobilize their base but to also sift through their activist lists to figure out who their most reliable and hardworking volunteer organizers are going to be. In the meantime, some are chomping at the bit to get going even before this weekend...