You are using an outdated browser.
Please upgrade your browser
and improve your visit to our site.
Skip Navigation

David Plouffe Hands Over The Secret Sauce

Lloyd Grove takes to Portfolio to interview the Obama campaign honcho, who reflects on why his team won:

We had three things that helped us run a very good campaign, and I think this wasn't the case for Clinton or McCain. One, we had a consistent message. What was our slogan the entire primary? "Change we can believe in." We adjusted slightly for the general—"Change we need." That didn't change. That was boring to the press, but that consistency, I think, wore well with voters. And we didn't have meetings every day about how to change our message. We had an electoral strategy, and the primary contest goal was to try to do well in the early states, and win delegates, in the general to play on the big map. We never adjusted that. And third is we didn't have that internal tension and in-fighting, so we could just focus on doing our damn jobs every day, and executing at a high level. And you're right. I've worked in a lot of campaigns and they've been great experiences, but this was by far the most collegial environment that I've worked in, and it was a real pleasure to go to work every day, and we just had a sense of mission. And that can't be overstated. There weren't a lot of closed doors where people were complaining and we were a unit. And once we made a decision, we had made a decision, and no one second-guessed it.

Also, this nugget is interesting given the outsize commissions you see media consultants making from presidential campaigns:

L.G.: What about percentages of ad buys?
D.P.: We had a cap, an aggressive arrangement—

L.G.: What did you cap it at?
D.P.: Well below industry standards.
L.G.: Because arguably, somebody could still get a very handsome fee. Say for the sake of argument, you spent $350 million on advertising. Even a niggling 1 percent of that is $3.5 million.
D.P.: That's why you have caps, so that people can't make more than a certain amount. So that if your spending does increase, their profits don't increase.

L.G.: What was the cap on that?

D.P.: I can't remember—it differed by firm based on what they were doing. But we made sure to protect ourselves. That ended up being, I think, wise, because we obviously raised a lot of money but the firms did not make more. My view of this is that working on a presidential campaign is obviously arduous but it's a unique opportunity. My view is you shouldn't have to pay market rate for people's services. And that's the general approach, and it seems to have worked out well.

And theres this on the Obama campaign`s views on Hillarys missteps:

L.G.: They obviously had Harold Ickes, who was supposed to be this huge expert on the rules and on how primaries proceed in the Democratic Party. Were you surprised they kind of dropped the ball on that?
D.P.: We were surprised. I'd read various accounts that Harold tried to bring to everybody's attention that this was going to become a delegate battle. I think they were much more tactical. The press narrative of the day was important to them. We were surprised.

(Via Ben Smith.)

--Noam Scheiber