LAist Interview: Obama Campaign Manager David Plouffe
David Plouffe, at 42-years-old, has likely reached the pinnacle of his career. He successfully guided a little known junior senator from Illinois to the highest echelon of national power while galvanizing an electorate burnt out from eight years of rancorous political discourse. In, "The Audacity to Win: The Inside Story and Lessons of Barack Obama's Historic Victory," Plouffe details the campaign from its infancy to present day. He takes us on a highly detailed journey in which he initially demurred at the prospect of managing the campaign, through the difficulties of the two-year campaign and the ultimate elation felt after America elected its first black president. He joined us Monday for a chat about what that experience was like, why he was surprised by McCain's campaigns tactics and what lies ahead for the architect of Change as he readies for an appearance Tuesday in Pasadena.David, welcome to LAist. Thanks for speaking with us
Thanks for taking an interest.
You seemed to have agonized over whether or not to manage Obama's campaign due to a plethora of personal and professional issues. What would your life be like if you had said no and what would have happened if someone else was at the helm?
Well, I think we would have had the same outcome. I would have been heavily involved in the campaign just as an adviser, not as a manager. [We] don't really put a lot of stock in the celebration of staff. Some people have asked, 'Well, if you guys had run Hillary's campaign, would she have won,' and I said, absolutely not. Would a different team have elected Obama? Yeah, I think they would have because this is about the quality of the candidate. We were all bless to work for such a great candidate.
You talked about failing to fully vet Rev. Jeremiah Wright as your own personal failure. Was that the campaign's biggest oversight?
We vetted him some. We didn't do it as exhaustively as we should have. We didn't look at every sermon on tape. I personally should have looked at all the sermons on tape. That was a big oversight, there's no doubt about it. I think the other big mistake we made was [extending] the primary that might have allowed the primary to go on as long as it was. And right now that doesn't seem like a big deal because we won, but you have to remember that we gave John McCain a three-month head start, which is nothing to sneeze at. At the time that could have been a phenomenal mistake though McCain didn't use that time well and it was something we overcame. But, yeah, I would say that was our biggest oversight.
You expected McCain's team to be ready for you guys with guns a blazin'. But they didn't seem to unload when the general campaign began. Were you surprised?
We were very surprised. Here's what we thought would happen: We thought he would use those three months to really organize and get ahead of us in all the battleground states. That didn't happen. We were actually, by the end of June, far more organized on the ground. Second, we thought he would have a better economic message and third, we thought he would try and separate from Bush. None of that happened. I was pleased none of that happened and I thought for sure they would have guns a blazin' for us coming out of the primary. They had three months to get ready and we were extremely fortunate that some political malpractice was at play.