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Electing a president: Five insights from Obama campaign manager Jim Messina

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The next step is to run a “sustained operation,” with lots of voter contact. In the 2010 midterms, Democrats thought they could put Obama’s picture on a piece of literature and his supporters would “magically” turn out for them, Messina said.

“It doesn’t work like that,” he said. There needs to be “an ongoing conversation about why they should support the president, about why they should get out and vote.”

In September 2011, the Obama campaign launched Operation Vote, which focused on eight target groups: women, blacks, seniors, Hispanics, Asian-Americans, Jews, gays, and young voters. With African-Americans, for example, there was particular outreach at beauty parlors, barber shops, black-owned businesses, and historically black colleges.

2. Door-knocking will only grow in importance. A flood of money from outside groups – a result of the 2010 Supreme Court ruling Citizens United – created a “huge cacaphony of television” in the final months of the campaign, making it harder for any one message to stand out.

Targeted door-knocking – only going to doors where you know the voter is persuadable or perhaps just needs a nudge to hand in their absentee ballot – became a way to rise above the din.

“Door-knocking is going to be even more important in the future,” says Messina.

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