Sunday, January 27, 2008

Why Obama won and what his win gets him

Dual stunners: Total turnout exceeds GOP’s and Obama’s margin of victory
Sen. Barack Obama celebrates his resounding South Carolina victory Saturday night.

By: Tom Curry
National affairs writer

There were two true stunners Saturday night: the size of Sen. Barack Obama’s margin of victory over Sen. Hillary Clinton — 28 percentage points — but just as significant this number: Total turnout for Democrats in their primary was greater than the turnout for the Republican primary in this state, which is one of the most loyally Republican in the nation.

Four years ago about 293,000 Democrats voted in the state’s primary: Saturday Obama alone got more than that number of votes.

Why did Obama win South Carolina and what does this triumph portend for future contests?

One short answer: He and his campaign staffers worked.

Thus Obama vindicated Sen. Hillary Clinton’s own New Hampshire campaign slogan when she said, “Some believe you can get change by hoping for it. I believe you get change by working hard.”

Democratic activists here in South Carolina said that the Obama campaign had perhaps the most extensive field operation ever seen in this state.

Superb field organization
The reach of the Obama field operation extended even to such often forgotten places as Allendale County, which has the second smallest population of any of the state’s 46 counties.

To cite another locale, Obama had had about 20 supporters working out of his Greenville, S.C. office since mid-summer; Clinton had only five or six starting in the fall, according to one Greenville Democratic activist.

The Obama high command showed a skill for picking talent: Craig Schirmer, a veteran South Carolina get-out-the-vote expert, was in charge of Obama’s mobilization effort in the state.

Obama also won because Clinton and her strategists, sensing defeat, apparently decided to trim their effort in the state.

“They basically pulled out of the state,” said veteran Charleston, S.C. Democrat Phil Noble, the president of South Carolina New Democrats, and an Obama supporter.

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