CHARLESTON, S.C. — White House hopeful Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and his campaign are taking the unexpected loss in New Hampshire to chief rival Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) “as maybe the wake-up call our supporters need.”
That’s according to Obama deputy campaign manager Steve Hildebrand, the architect of Obama’s Iowa field organization, crucial to his Jan. 3 caucus win. Now Hildebrand is camped in South Carolina through the Jan. 26 primary here.
“Let’s put more urgency in the minds of our supporters,” Hildebrand told me Wednesday.
Obama campaign manager David Plouffe said in a memo issued Wednesday that South Carolina is the “gateway” to the Feb. 5 elections in 22 states with 2,075 delegates at stake, enough to, for all practical matters, mint a nominee. Obama stumps here today. Before South Carolina is another key contest, the Nevada caucuses Jan. 19. Iowa state director Paul Tewes, who executed Obama’s Iowa ground game, is in Nevada.
The tight-knit Team Obama is not shaken up by the Tuesday New Hampshire loss mainly because they see Clinton’s win as a singular moment that can’t be replicated — Clinton choking up at a Portsmouth diner triggered an outpouring of female voters impossible for the pollsters to see coming.
Here’s what’s ahead in the crucial next 26 days and why the Obama camp is optimistic despite the New Hampshire loss. While Clinton will push ahead with aggressive critiques of Obama’s record, he said on MSNBC, “I come from Chicago politics. We’re accustomed to rough and tumble. I don’t expect this to be a cakewalk.”
By each winning one contest, Obama and Clinton will not be able to poach each other’s best donors. Plouffe said they raised at least $8 million the first eight days of the year. About $1.5 million was collected on the Internet since 6 p.m. Tuesday. All of that allows Obama to stay even. Clinton campaign chief Terry McAuliffe said they got a $1.1 million Internet fund-raising boost since midnight Tuesday.
During the last year, an Obama machine has been established in most of the Feb. 5 states, with a strong finance and field organization in delegate-rich California. By the end of the week, all 22 states will be staffed. Absentee ballot programs are being executed.
On Super Tuesday, Obama expects to be most competitive in Arizona, Missouri, Minnesota, Colorado, California, New Jersey (where Obama headlined a rally Wednesday), Kansas, Georgia, Alabama and Alaska.
Illinois is a given. Clinton’s New York is not.
Clinton has also had the resources to build organizations in the key Feb. 5 states and has a network of officials who served in the Clinton administration across the country to anchor her drives.
Obama is expected to roll out in the coming days a string of “superdelegate” endorsements. A superdelegate is one of 850 high-level Democratic officials — such as members of Congress, governors or senators who are automatically delegates to the presidential convention.
The labor vote is critical in Nevada. Obama visits Nevada on Friday with a bounce from the most influential union in the state. On Wednesday, he won backing of the Culinary Workers union representing hotel and casino employees.