Plouffe, Obama’s campaign manager, looking ahead to November.

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WASHINGTON — Not that the Obama campaign is taking its eye off the main goal — clinching the Democratic presidential nomination with fierce contests ahead — but some planning for the November election is already under way, campaign manager David Plouffe told the Chicago Sun-Times.

(this Lynn Sweet column ran April 1 in the print Chicago Sun-Times. )

“Obviously, you don’t want to enter a general election completely unprepared. So we are doing what planning we can now. But you know, it’s kind of supplemental, it’s not core to our mission every day,” said Plouffe in a Monday phone interview from the Chicago Obama headquarters.

Plouffe predicted the protracted battle between Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) would wind up after the June contests, even as Clinton is saying the race might extend to the Denver convention in August. A major issue remains how to seat Michigan and Florida delegations — stripped of seats by the Democratic National Committee because of unauthorized January primary votes — in a way that is fair to Obama and Clinton.

Meanwhile, the campaign of presumptive GOP nominee Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is in general election mode and is “planning 24/7 right now. And we just don’t have that luxury,” said Plouffe.

The byproduct of the extra innings is that both Clinton and Obama will have run campaigns in more states than McCain — who wrapped up last month — and have an organizational running start for November.

Plouffe described some of the “small things in the wee hours” the Obama campaign was doing for November, assuming that Obama will be the nominee.

Build an organization in Michigan and Florida. “You have to treat those two states initially with a little bit more intensity than the rest of the battleground states because Barack has not spent a lot of time in them from a campaign perspective” Plouffe said.

Continue precinct-level organizing. Last year there was Obama U. The campaign is already launching the “Obama Organizing Fellows” program to train students or recent graduates to work this summer. An “underappreciated part of what happens in the fall, which is, in all the battleground states, the Obama organization is going to be stronger than the McCain organization at the grass roots level,” said Plouffe.

Reassess. We are looking at budgets, we are looking at potential personnel, we are looking at our organization in these states,” Plouffe said. Another source said Pete Rouse, Obama’s Senate office chief of staff — now working part-time on the campaign — will take on an even bigger role in the general.

Meanwhile, Obama campaign chief operating officer Betsy Myers, who also heads Women for Obama, returned to her Boston area home earlier this year. Myers said the move back was done for her family. She remains the COO of the campaign and “still oversees that department,” said Plouffe. She returns to Chicago for meetings and has a heavy surrogate schedule.

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