Strategy plays big role in caucus wins

Political analysts say passion, organization are key to Obama's caucus wins.

ByABC News
February 12, 2008, 1:04 AM

WASHINGTON -- The score on Democratic presidential caucuses this nomination season could hardly be more lopsided: Barack Obama 11, Hillary Rodham Clinton 2, New Mexico pending. And a lot of those Obama wins were landslides.

Obama's big win Sunday in Maine, a state where demographics and other indicators suggested Clinton would do well, begs an answer to the question: Why doesn't Clinton win caucuses?

Clinton and her allies point to the nature of a caucus. Blue-collar and shift workers, they say, don't have the time or flexibility to show up at a certain time and stay for a couple of hours. If you're out of town, you're out of luck. Ditto if you can't get a babysitter.

Political analysts say passion and organization are key to caucus wins and Obama has them in greater measure. "He's got both an army of campaign workers and an operatic presentation" that excites people, says Lawrence Jacobs, director of the Center for the Study of Politics and Governance at the University of Minnesota. "It's a very potent, very unusual combination."

Clinton has targeted early and large states. On Super Tuesday, she focused on and won New York, New Jersey, California and Massachusetts.

David Plouffe, Obama's campaign manager, said Obama has tried to compete in every contest "in pursuit of delegates." He said that has meant TV ads in New York and California, two states Obama never expected to win, and taking caucus states "very seriously."

Clinton strategist Mark Penn said the campaign invested where returns would be greatest. "Our funds at the time were limited. We put them into the Super Tuesday states that were successful," he said, and that in turn has sparked new contributions.

Caucuses still to come this year are Hawaii on Feb. 19, Wyoming on March 8 and Puerto Rico on June 7. Texas holds a primary March 4, then awards one-third of its delegates at evening caucuses open to people who voted.

So far, Clinton has won American Samoa and Nevada. Obama has won Iowa, Alaska, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Minnesota, North Dakota, Nebraska, Washington state, the Virgin Islands and Maine. Six contests on Super Tuesday helped keep up with Clinton on delegates.