Stanley Greenberg, James Carville, and Jesse Contario

Democracy Corps / Campaign for America's Future


The Extraordinary Campaign Memo (PDF - 6 K)

Executive Summary

Deeply grounded in contemporary social currents and political passions, the Obama campaign took the scope of campaign communication and activity into whole new realms and, in the process, dwarfed McCain’s efforts. Obama’s election was produced by an extraordinary shift in the way the citizenry gets information and relates to candidates and the Obama campaign’s ability to exploit that at every level.

Their vast financial advantage allowed the Obama campaign to reach voters and states with fewer trade-offs - but the Obama campaign did more than that: they developed new, innovative and effective forms of communicating with voters, particularly new voters and those traditionally unengaged in the electoral process. 

The post election survey conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner for Democracy Corps and the Campaign for America’s Future confirms that the tireless efforts of the Obama team to engage, educate and turn out voters were well rewarded on Election Day.

Key Findings

  • The Obama team led on all traditional forms of communication over the McCain campaign throughout the campaign and on election night. Obama’s largest lead came in their dominance in TV advertising. Nearly seven in ten voters (69 percent) said they had seen television ads from the Obama campaign, compared to 44 percent who said they had seen ads from McCain’s. Among the wavering McCain voters who considered Obama but ultimately supported McCain, Obama’s ads dominated, 73 to 45 percent.
  • By nearly two to one voters were contacted by the Obama campaign more than the McCain campaign through new forms of communication. Nearly three in ten voters (29 percent) reported that they had watched a campaign commercial online or visited a campaign-sponsored website from the Obama campaign while only one in ten did for McCain. A quarter of voters said they had received emails from the Obama campaign while just 14 percent said the same about the McCain campaign. Similarly, 14 percent of voters reported that they had received campaign or candidate information through their cell phone or PDA from the Obama campaign while just 5 percent said the same from the McCain campaign.
  • While Karl Rove and the Republicans employed a superior 72-hour program to push President Bush ahead of Democratic hopeful John Kerry in 2004, the Obama campaign clearly had the better 72-hour program in this year’s election. By a 12-point margin voters were contacted more in the final days before the election by the Obama campaign than the McCain campaign (35 percent Obama to 23 percent McCain).


This report is based on a survey of 2,000 voters conducted on November 4-5 by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner for Democracy Corps and the Campaign for America’s Future.