No one gets to the White House alone. Winning the presidency requires the assemblage of a powerful team to raise money, communicate the platform effectively, and devise a plan to win primaries. “A candidate needs an experienced fundraising staff with a Rolodex that stretches for miles,” says Democratic strategist Julian Espstein. “You need field operatives in the early primary states who can organize, from the big cities to the small towns. And you clearly need a top-notch strategic team who can figure out your message and how you can distinguish yourself from other candidates, both in style and in substance.”
Obama has pulled together a multiethnic team of political strategists and a who’s who of policy advisers. His impressive inner circle includes David Plouffe, his national campaign manager, and David Axelrod, a chief strategist, former partners in a political consulting firm and longtime strategists of Democratic presidential and congressional campaigns. He’s also amassed an all-star team of more than 200 policy advisers, including heavy hitters from the Clinton administration. He has an almost telepathic rapport with his cohorts, having built relationships with most of these policy mavens before he was elected to the U.S. Senate. Obama’s team also recruited a phalanx of committed volunteers to provide tactical support.
Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, the second African American to be elected to a statehouse, developed a winning strategy that included securing a broad-based staff of strategists and advisers to help him gain the Democratic nomination and eventually beat his GOP opponent in a landslide in 2006
. He maintains that “putting together a broad coalition of people is important for any candidate. I don’t think that the traditional coalitions are enough practically or philosophically.”
Obama’s team is making sure his campaign speeches, debate appearances, and policy statements set him apart from the other Democratic contenders, especially Sen. Hillary Clinton. His challenges to Clinton’s position on everything from Iraq to Social Security in recent debates in Philadelphia and Las Vegas have clarified distinctions between the two and served to diminish her standing in the polls.
3: THE FUNDS TO COMPETE
Running for president takes loads of money. According to Michael E. Toner, former chairman of the Federal Election Commission, it will cost approximately $100 million to be a credible candidate in the 2008 presidential election, making it the costliest race in history. And because Super Tuesday–on which voters will turn out for 18 primaries and caucuses, including contests in California and New York–will be Feb. 5, early fundraising has become even more critical. “The change in the primary dates helps any candidate with money,” says Epstein. “The more resources a candidate has, the better.”
Obama continues to display a keen ability to raise cash. At press time, Clinton led the Democrats with total campaign contributions of more than $90 million, while Obama has raised $80.3 million through the third quarter of 2007. His campaign war chest was bolstered by star-studded fundraisers held by the likes of billionaire talk show host Oprah Winfrey and Hollywood mogul David Geffen. However,