updated 8/28/2008 10:30:29 PM ET 2008-08-29T02:30:29

Forgive some of the 84,000 people amassed at Invesco Field Thursday if their thumbs are a bit weary by the time Barack Obama takes the stage for a triumphant acceptance of his presidential nomination.

  1. Other political news of note
    1. Animated Boehner: 'There's nothing complex about the Keystone Pipeline!'

      House Speaker John Boehner became animated Tuesday over the proposed Keystone Pipeline, castigating the Obama administration for not having approved the project yet.

    2. Budget deficits shrinking but set to grow after 2015
    3. Senate readies another volley on unemployment aid
    4. Obama faces Syria standstill
    5. Fluke files to run in California

In the hours before he made his entrance, these supporters were being repeatedly asked to text messages to the campaign and to make phone calls from specially tailored call sheets as part of an unprecedented effort to mobilize voters and get nonvoters to register.

The speech itself may or may not become a seminal moment in the campaign. But this effort to combine telecommunications, microtargeting techniques and Obama's known ability to draw a crowd could be remembered as a shrewd and groundbreaking calculation to expand Obama's vote base.

Obama's campaign has identified 55 million voting age Americans across the country who are not registered to vote. It has done this by comparing registration lists with lists of potential voters gleaned from consumer databases the same way credit card companies track people's spending.

Campaign officials estimate more than two-thirds would vote for Obama.

Thursday, as the crowd settled in to their seats at Invesco Field, a towering projection screen at one end of the stadium flashed a giant interactive map of the United States.

"We're going to do some work," Obama's Colorado director Ray Rivera announced, calling on the crowd to pull out their phones and send a message to the Obama text code. With some nimbly and others clumsily thumbing, the map lit up with the home states of the message senders.

Some texting for the first time
The call to action inspired 62-year-old Connie Zuckschwerdt, a Michigan delegate from Corunna, to send her first text message. But it took the help of the Blackberry-wielding delegate next to her to get it done.

"That's it. ... Push send," said Kathy McAttee, 41, a delegate from DeWitt, Mich. "You just sent your first text message. Yay!"

Harnessing voters wasn't the only goal, however. Obama also used the massive rally and the attention it spawned to mount an Internet fundraising drive. Less than two hours before the speech, Obama campaign manager David Plouffe sent out an e-mail to supporters: "On this final day before Barack formally accepts the Democratic nomination, please celebrate the moment and lay the foundation for our victory in November by making a donation of $25 or more now," he wrote.

Earlier, speaking to the gathering Invesco audience, he sounded a note of urgency.

"Every day, every hour is critical," Plouffe said. "The stakes in this election are too big. We need all of you. We have to out-hustle, outwork, out-think them."

With fast approaching voter registration deadlines in key battleground states, the campaign is furiously using its high-tech gadgetry and vast databases to make sure potential Obama supporters are registered.

"We know we need to expand the electorate," said Jenny Backus, an Obama spokeswoman at the convention.

The campaign initially planned to have the Invesco crowd use their cell phones to reach out to voters and nonvoters. But Backus said such an endeavor would have overwhelmed Denver cell systems. Instead, the campaign has set up about 130 telephones throughout the stadium. Attendees encircle the tables, section by section and take turns making calls.

At the same time, the Colorado Democratic Party was mounting its own drive, with stadium volunteers placing calls to Colorado voters who had been identified as undecided in the presidential contest.

A group of about two dozen volunteers worked over folding tables, hands pressed over their ears to try to hear the people they were calling over the din of the public address system and the crowd all around them.

At each table, the Obama supporters worked off a list of area residents, and read from a script encouraging people to watch Obama's speech, visit his Web site or sign up for text messages.

"To tell you the truth you can't hear much, you can't really hear who you're talking to," said Anita Padilla, a telecommunications worker from Denver.

In about five minutes, Padilla made five calls, getting one positive response, two disconnected messages, a hang-up, and a "no."

While the outreach to voters and nonvoters is by itself a useful tactic, the calls will generate useful lists of phone numbers, many of them identified by the specific issue of interest to the person on that end of the call.

"It's a data gathering exercise as well," Backus said.

Data mining
A campaign spread sheet obtained by The Associated Press lists the number of eligible voters in each of the 50 states, highlighting the 18 states where Obama has been spending the most money. Different columns identify the number of non-registered eligible voters, distinguishing them by age and race.

For instance, the campaign knows that there are nearly 170,000 eligible voters in Missouri who are between the ages of 18 and 24 and are not registered to vote. Through data mining techniques, the campaign has identified many of those people and can make a direct appeal to them.

The campaign sought to replicate the stadium effort at 4,500 parties to watch Obama's speech in various battleground states. Backus said volunteers would be making calls from the watch parties as well.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Discussion comments


Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments