Mapping Obama’s Path to Victory

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Before the election results rolled in late Tuesday night, political analysts across the country were feverishly predicting which states would go blue or red. Now that the dust has settled and the electoral map is clearly painted, those same experts are looking back on the campaigns to analyze how Senator John McCain and President-Elect Barack Obama got where they are today.

Randall Miller, Ph.D., professor of history at Saint Joseph's University in Philadelphia, says, “Obama became a product, for which there was a huge need in 2008.”

Miller largely credits Obama’s success to his early planning, which included vital, large-scale fundraising. “Obama raised scads of money to build organizations everywhere. He was able to establish a huge base and permeate the map. With a steady flow of money, he was able to explore many territories and even venture into some ‘red’ states. Essentially, he made himself visible and available – there was an Obama office virtually everywhere.”

Miller also recognizes the President-Elect’s strong connections to ‘the people.’ “The thrust of the Obama campaign was registering new voters,” Miller continued. “His campaign team was great at getting names and harvesting these names. But beyond that, they made the potential voters get involved by text messaging them, having phone conversations. This usage of technology is so modern, so smart and so cool.”

Ultimately, Miller says that Obama’s intelligence, drive and organizing skills clinched the win. “His campaigning wasn’t all that new or different, but the organization and execution on such a grand scale was brilliant and served him well.”

So this begs the question: had McCain been able to raise as much money or pervade communities as deeply as Obama did, would he have increased his chances of winning the race? Miller doesn’t think so.

“The polls suggest there are critical moments in a campaign, and one of those was when McCain decided to suspend his campaign before the first debate during the big economic meltdown,” he says. “McCain made a fool of himself. And then you had Obama who came across as ‘Mr. Cool,’ because, in the midst of everything going on, he seemed the most unflappable. If you can’t make the voters feel re-assured, you’ll have a very hard time selling yourself.”

In the end, that was what cost the republican nominee. “McCain just couldn’t stay on message. He was tooimpulsive,” says Miller.

Randall Miller can be reached for comment at 610.660.1748,, or by contacting the Office of University Communications at 610.660.1222 or

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