Almost from the beginning, Hillary Rodham Clinton’s superior name recognition and her sway with state party organizations convinced Barack Obama’s brain trust that a junior senator from Illinois was not going to be able to challenge the Clinton political machine head-on.
The insurgent strategy they devised instead was to virtually cede the most important battlegrounds of the Democratic nomination fight to Clinton, using precision targeting to minimize her delegate hauls, while going all out to crush her in states where Democratic candidates rarely ventured and causes that were often ignored.
The result may have lacked the glamour of a sweep, but tonight, with the delegates he picked up in Montana and South Dakota and a flood of superdelegate endorsements, Obama sealed one of the biggest upsets in U.S. political history and became the first Democrat since Jimmy Carter to wrest his party’s nomination from the candidate of the party establishment. The surprise was how well his strategy held up — and how little resistance it met.
“We kept waiting for the Clinton people to send people into the caucus states,” marveled Jon Carson, one of Obama’s top ground-game strategists.
“It’s the big mystery of the campaign,” said campaign manager David Plouffe, “because every delegate counts.”
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