Video: Obama had ‘audacity to win,’ insider says

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    >> served as president obama 's campaign manager during the presidential campaign . he is out with a new book, "the audacity to win." david, good morning to you.

    >> good morning, meredith.

    >> before we get to the book, let's talk about these governors races in new jersey and virginia . in new jersey, a very close race. in virginia , as chuck pointed out, the republican is in the lead right now. president obama campaigned for the democratic candidates in those states fiercely, really, over the past few weeks. what does it say? i mean, obviously, he is not on the ballot, but what will the outcome say about his ability to deliver?

    >> well, i think the results of these elections tend to be overread. these are local races. i think he believes governor corzine and creigh deeds in virginia could serve both states better as governor and be important to him. i think the most important development coming out of today has nothing to do with the results. it's the congressional race in new york 23, where the sarah palin , rush limbaugh , glenn beck wing of the party drove a moderate not just out of the race, but out of the republican party .

    >> but he wouldn't be campaigning for them if he didn't think the race was important.

    >> it's less the politics than the governance. he believes they would be good individuals to serve as governor of their state and hopes they will win today because he thinks both states will be better off with their leadership. but this tends to be overcovered. i agree with the bush administration in '01 and '05. these are local races. there are 18,000 lifetime between now and next november.

    >> and would you say the same thing if the democrats were leading?

    >> absolutely. we won a congressional district in new york earlier this year. we weren't pounding our chest about the significance of that. we have a good night tonight. i promise you we won't be overstating that.

    >> one of the reasons the democrat in virginia is behind is because the independents are leaving him, and the same could be said for president obama . support of the independents he had during the campaign, which you said was crucial, has erode eroded. and it's not just the independents. i want you to look at this morning's front page of the liberal website "the huffington post ." on the left side, it shows a cover of your book, "the audacity to win," and on the right side, the mock-up cover "the timidity to govern." that's coming from people who appreciate the president, voted for the president. they're asking now -- this was the candidate of change -- they're asking, where's the change?

    >> well, there's a lot of change. i couldn't disagree more strongly with that. we're dealing with historic challenges in the economy, trying to figure out what to do with afghanistan, winding down the war in iraq . what this president is doing, he's doing -- he's asking this country and washington to do something it hasn't done in a long time, which is tackle long-term challenges. so, as we try to rebuild the economy in the short-term and focus on job creation , on energy and health care , the things that will determine the strength of this country for decades that washington has ducked, he's leading the charge. he's trying to fight for the middle class , change the way washington works --

    >> but do you understand this perception among those who, again, supported him, that he's dragging his fight, that they don't see anything happening?

    >> well, i completely reject that. listen, people are impatient, and they should be. we're dealing with the worst economy in over 60 years. people are tense and want results, but what he's doing -- expanding stem cell research , the biggest middle class tax cut in history, trying to finally deliver after a century on the promise of health care . listen, he takes the long-term view of things, not just the politics of the moment, and he's committed to doing the things he thinks will strengthen the country in the long term.

    >> i want to talk about some of the aspects of your book. you talk about sarah palin in the book. you call the decision to pick her as mccain's running mate "downright bizarre, ill-considered and deeply puzzling choice." at what point did you within the campaign realize that was going to backfire or believe that would backfire on mccain?

    >> well, we thought immediately so. now, obviously, in the few days after it, it was seen as a brilliant choice and she became a phenomenon, but our sense was this was a window into the two candidates, and our opponent's choice seemed somewhat reckless. he had been criticizing us for lack of experience for five or six months and then unwound that really in one moment with the selection of palin. and i think what people liked about president obama 's selection was it was methodical, it was well thought out. he put the governing part ahead of the campaign. so, and listen, palin continues to be something in our party we treasure, because what she's doing up in new york 23, along with her partners --

    >> supporting the conservative right?

    >> yes. i think they're driving moderates out of the party. and remember, comparatively, republicans are at the lowest point they've been in their history. why? centrists and moderates are abandoning that party. young vod voeters, hispanic voters, african-american voters. by the way, we as a party can't accept that. we've got to deliver. we have to do the right thing --

    >> so you don't think you're underestimating her?

    >> no. listen, she's obviously got powerful support amongst an element of the party, but that doesn't reflect the country as a whole.

    >> you talked about reverend wright during the campaign and all the controversy surrounding him, and you say about in your campaign, you folks, he wasn't on the radar screen. you weren't even aware of the videos until they appeared on television and you blame yourself. you're the campaign manager . how do you miss that?

    >> good question. no, he was on our radar screen, but we hadn't done as thorough research as we should have, and it was a moment where we failed the candidate, really. and we recovered from that because of president obama , because he gave a remarkable speech that allowed us to really survive that moment of crisis.

    >> so, he could have torpedoed that election, then.

    >> well, the potential was there, sure.

    >> all right. david plouffe , thank you so much. the book is called "the audacity to win." now let's check on


David Plouffe, President Barack Obama’s campaign manager in 2008, shares intimate details from the campaign trail in his new book, “The Audacity to Win.” Read an excerpt below.

From Chapter 6: Roller-Coaster Time

On Friday, January 4, we landed in New Hampshire after 4:00 a.m. As we got to the hotel, it was nearly time for the day’s first conference call, so I skipped sleep altogether. Instead I checked our online fund-raising numbers; they were through the roof, with over $6 million raised in the hours since we were declared the winner of the Iowa caucuses. It was like a lit match had been dropped in gasoline. New donors and fund-raisers were showing up everywhere, wanting to help a potential winner, and our previous donors and fund-raisers were digging deeper as their initial investment was rewarded in Iowa.

Obama made it clear from the beginning that he did not want to be left shouldering a big debt. I had always managed campaigns that way, so we had prepared for the worst and had hoped for the best, budgeting conservatively post-Iowa and projecting only $10 million raised for all of January. We assumed that even with a loss we could cobble together enough money through our diehard supporters to execute our game plan in the remaining early states.

Now, we almost certainly would raise over $10 million in the first eight days of January alone and might raise over $30 million in January, giving us what we believed would be a huge financial advantage for Super Tuesday. In the space of a few hours, we had not just won Iowa but also considerably strengthened our ability to compete against Clinton in a drawn-out slugfest.

Friday morning, sleep deprived but showered, Gibbs, Axelrod, and I climbed into the motorcade idling outside our hotel and thumbed through the morning’s stories on our BlackBerrys while we waited for Obama to emerge. We were working our way through the standard road show campaign breakfast—coffee and Dunkin’ Donuts to go. I was tired but enjoying the moment of peace when Ax erupted from the backseat.

“Shit!” he yelled out. “I don’t believe it.” Well, I thought, I guess the good times can’t last forever. I turned around to face him in the backseat. “What is it?” I asked. “A sh--ty story? Is it bad?” He looked up at me with a mixture of despair and incredulity. “I got glazed doughnut in the track wheel of my BlackBerry and it’s stuck,” he replied. “I can’t get the thing to work.”

I stared at him for a second before bursting into laughter. In another second the whole van had joined in. Ax looked beleaguered but then finally cracked a smile. For all his brilliance as a communicator and strategist, Ax was legendary within the campaign for spilling food and mishaps with electronic gadgets. But this was the pièce de résistance. It had to be a first in the history of smart phones—death by glazed doughnut. If we had lost Iowa, it would have been just another pain in the ass. But we were on cloud nine, so it was part of the adventure. Glazegate.

I was happy to see Ax bask in the post-Iowa glow. This was Obama’s campaign, of course. But after him, the DNA of the organization was mostly David Axelrod’s. Over the years he and Obama had become more friends than business associates, and Ax had been instrumental to Obama throughout his career. Without David, I’m not sure Obama would have won his 2004 Senate race and made it to the national stage. Many of us who were working on the campaign at senior levels were there because of an Axelrod connection.

David’s career was very successful by any measure, but I always got the sense that he was yearning for one last ride. Though Ax was a street fighter when he needed to be, at heart he was an idealist. This campaign, fueled by average people and appealing to their best aspirations rather than their darkest fears, was in many ways his ideal. He had come full circle, having started in politics as a young boy handing out leaflets for Bobby Kennedy in Stuyvesant Town, a housing development on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Whatever happened from here on out, I felt that Ax would feel satisfied that he had experienced the campaign he had long yearned for.

Historically, the period between New Hampshire and Iowa was often the most turbulent seven days of campaigning in American politics—and the longest. Working a New Hampshire campaign, you could pack a couple of lifetimes into that short period. For us, New Hampshire came only five days after Iowa—four campaigning days. It could be a ferocious beast, but we thought we could use it to our advantage. The fallout from Iowa would dominate the first couple of days of press coverage. Most observers, if they had to bet their mortgage, would have put their money on Clinton to win the caucuses.

Our Iowa victory in itself was not an earthquake, but when you threw in the eight-point margin, Clinton’s third-place finish, and the demographic successes we had, it was seismic.

Reprinted by arrangement with Viking, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., from The Audacity to Win by David Plouffe.  Copyright © 2009 by David Plouffe.

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