Obama 2012 occupies an entire floor of one of downtown Chicago's gleaming sandstone towers. Spread across more than 50,000 square feet, knots of twenty-something campaign staffers sit at rows of desks that stretch almost out of sight, evoking a trade floor more than a reelection fight. "Hey everyone," I hear a field staffer barking into a speakerphone, "we're live with Marshall in Nevada. Hello?"
Tall windows look out onto Millennium Park and the blue expanse of Lake Michigan beyond. From strategist David Axelrod's office you can actually watch people ice-skating. A banner in reception, printed in the campaign's signature Gotham typeface, reads "Respect. Empower. Include. Win." Don't be fooled, though: it's only that last word that counts.
For all the feel-good vibes and lusciously designed graphics, what the strategists here have built is a giant killing machine. They've had the money—a cool $61 million at last disclosure—and the time to assemble the biggest, baddest campaign infrastructure they could imagine. If you look past the start-up style ping-pong table with the stenciled 2012 logo and tune out the chirpy greetings of volunteers answering phones, you'll notice the team in the darkened southeast corner, the guys with the earlobe plugs and scraggly beards bent over MacBooks. New talent from Silicon Valley, these are the software engineers who are building proprietary data-collection, communications, and reporting systems that could drastically increase the campaign's ability to target swing-voters. And then there's the row of offices that line the eastern wall, secluded chambers where Deputy Campaign Managers Stephanie Cutter, Julianna Smoot, and Jen O'Malley Dillon, spend their days plotting ways to out-fundraise, out-communicate, and out-organize the other guy, whoever he may turn out to be.
You can be forgiven for getting swept up in the cult of Obama last time around, even though everyone should have known better back then too. There was ample evidence that Obama was going to turn out just like Bush except with a D next to his name, not the least of which was Obama's vote as a U.S. Senator to renew the Patriot Act.
But now that we've had three years of this and Obama's undeniably turned out to be everything that Democrats hated about Bush except worse, anybody working in that campaign office is brain dead, intentionally malicious, power-hungry, willfully ignorant, seriously not paying attention, or drinking some seriously trippy kool aid. Stupid or evil, take your pick.
Maybe both. The GQ piece concludes:
"In a re-elect," one caffeine-addled strategist tells me between closed-door meetings, "all you're really doing is trying to destroy the other guy."
Editor in Chief, THL
Articles | Author's Page