What a ride! On December 24, 2007, for the customary but risky New Year prediction game, I wrote: “Barack Hussein Obama will be elected the 44th President of the United Sates of America on November 4, 2008. Why? Because he’s smart, he’s new, he’s clean, he’s authentic and because he is, by any measure, the antidote to the Bush era”… At the time — this was prior the bitter primary season — the outlook was grim. According to a CBS poll, Obama was trailing Hillary Clinton by 27% to 44% in the voting intentions, and only 41% of the registered Democrats considered the Illinois senator experienced enough against 83% who thought Hillary was ready to take the job. And she had the best chance to win the election by 63% versus 14% for Obama.
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What I (and everyone else) didn’t foresee was the near-perfect execution of the campaign. In a late August Monday Note, we deconstructed the Internet part (see  Learning from the Obama Internet Machine). Until the very end (and beyond, see JLG’s column), the Obama campaign worked flawlessly. For a behind-the scene glimpse, see this story in the New York Times, from Obama’s finely weighted initial posture of skirting the race issue, to the pragmatically crafted responses to Republican attacks on the candidate’s background and presumed beliefs. Other must-read includes this piece in Rolling Stone (The Machinery of Hope) which tells a powerful story of grassroots, block-by-block canvassing. Also worth watching is this CBS crew visit at the Obama ‘08 Chicago HQ. It shows the incredible work of David Axelrod, the chief strategist and of David Plouffe, the brilliant 41 year-old, analytic, campaign manager (see his profile in the Los Angeles Times), so cool in the storm that the staffers joked that “Plouffe range of emotions ran all the way from A to B”.  Among the key people in Obama’s staff, a special mention to the chief speech writer Jon Favreau, 25 (Newsweek profile here) and his two crewmen of 25 and 30…  Undoubtedly, this campaign will remain a management textbook case: its professionalism and discipline were at the opposite of the McCain’s (read How he did it, a formidable, 20.000 words account in Newsweek).
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One final consideration about this campaign. If we needed a proof that good journalism is expensive, data compiled by Politico shed light on the cost of media coverage for a such big and protracted event. For travel expenses alone (not salaries), NBC News spent more than two million dollars to follow both candidates, The New York Times more than $600.000, The Wall Street Journal $350.000. Among the “super blogs” on the campaign trail, Politico itself spent $200.000. Interestingly enough, said Politico, the media ended up spending twice as much to follow Obama as to McCain.
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Bonus tracks
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This election was also a riveting Internet moment. Here is a selection of must see Web videos.
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The Closing Argument. A grand American tradition.  In court, the final summation for the jury. Here, for the voters. The final, best 6 minutes and the whole 31 minutes.
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The last day, laughs and tears.
Obama’s final rally in William County, Virginia, where he recounts the anecdote behind one of the famous slogan of his campaign “Fired Up, Ready to go!“. A great and fun moment.  That very same day,  Barack Obama is in Charlotte, North Carolina. He is talking about the death of his grandmother who passed away the same morning, a very emotional tribute to what he calls the “quiet heroes” of  his country.
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Turning points. Having avoided the divisive race issue at first, Obama is caught by his former pastor’s incendiary sermon delivered right after 9/11. As a counter attack, Obama delivers on March 18 in Philadelphia, one of the most important speeches of his life. The other most important being the 2004 speech at the Democratic convention in Boston about his personal journey. At the end of the campaign an iconic Black American, Colin Powell, former Secretary of State under the Bush administration, delivers the final push for Obama, with a stunning endorsement.
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Fiction and reality. Finally, for the fans of the TV series The West Wing, the confirmation of what we suspected all along: as explained by the New York Times in fact, Barack Obama inspired the script of the season 7, where the minority candidate wins, against all odds, both the nomination and the election. Slate produced a great video segment drawing a parallel between reality and a TV show that remains probably the best documentary, so far, on the 2008 race (pending the upcoming HBO production). –FF
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