President Obama, DNC Mobilize 2012 Campaign Volunteer Army

1,600 newly-recruited Democratic campaign volunteers are out across 40 states.

June 5, 2011, 8:43 PM

June 6, 2011 -- A legion of 1,600 newly-recruited Democratic campaign volunteers, armed with Tweet-producing smartphones and a contagious spirit of enthusiasm, are fanning out across 40 states today to begin laying the groundwork for the reelection of President Barack Obama.

The forces -- college students, recent graduates, teachers, and retirees -- will work unpaid through August, aides say, to grow and re-energize Obama's grassroots volunteer network that had remarkable success in 2008, and gather troves of voter data in the process.

Obama campaign managers hope the effort will give the president something of a head start over his yet-to-be-determined Republican rival, in what is expected to be a tough campaign.

The operation kicked-off Saturday at boot-camp-style training sessions held jointly by the Obama campaign and the Democratic National Committee in conference rooms and community centers across the country.

ABC News received exclusive access to one of the two-day sessions held at DNC headquarters, where 15 volunteers received a briefing on campaign strategies and ground operations for the summer ahead.

"As summer organizers, we're the face of the president," Jenn Brown, a DNC staffer leading the training, told attendees. "So, whether it's here or in our lives, we represent the president 24 hours a day, and that's a really big responsibility we take on."

Over coffee and bagels, sub sandwiches and pizza -- which Brown called "the diet of an organizer" -- the recruits shared personal stories, flipped through glossy official instruction manuals and studied up on the Obama's first term with a game of "POTUS Accomplishments Jeopardy."

They also received the so-called "Rules of the Road." Colorful posters on the wall exhorted the new organizers to "Be on time," "Be positive," obey the "chain of command" -- and talk to the media? "No, no."

Campaign aides emphasized a goal of running a "different campaign" than 2008, but stressed the renewed importance of using personal relationships and one-on-one conversations to drive participation.

It's also clear they believe 2012 will be defined by Twitter.

"This summer is about trying new things and testing our organizing methods," said campaign spokeswoman Katie Hogan. "But these volunteers are not just guinea pigs; they will be having real conversations that are laying the groundwork."

One large sign hung from the conference room wall encouraging the volunteers to Tweet: "The Summer Organizers who write the best tweets will be re-tweeted by campaign leadership," it reads.

With 8.4 Million followers on Twitter, Obama has more than any other American politician. He added more than 162,000 in the last week alone.

Among those new campaign volunteers is Gloria, a middle-aged professional woman from Washington, DC, who is between jobs and wanted to give her summer to help Obama.

"I feel like a dorm mom here!" she exclaimed during introductions. "I missed the campaign in '08 when I was overseas working for the U.N., so I am really excited to help out this time."

Sam Polstein, 20, a junior at the University of Wisconsin, said he was inspired to become an organizer after witnessing the union protests in Madison earlier this year.

"It was kind of a big moment in my life," he said. "It didn't really inspire me to work toward some particular policy goal as much as it inspired me towards a motivation to work harder for families and workers in general."

Many volunteers also seemed more inclined to blame Congress and Republicans than the president for any shortcomings in reform legislation related to education, immigration, and the environment.

"It's not him [Obama], it's Congress," said Valentina Pereda, 22, who said she joined the organizing effort because of desire to see the DREAM Act enacted.

"We have a Congress that's so anti-immigrants right now," she said. "But it's also our fault too. We've got to get a national movement organized and that's why I'm here."

Campaign manager Jim Messina has said the campaign is going to keep metrics on everything the volunteers do. But aides have not revealed what those data points are.

As one campaign staffer at the training put it: "We have our data person who's going to come in and talk about the data, which obviously we're very militant about."

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events