Cell phones call up fresh Obama support
DENVER » From Hawaii to Maine, Barack Obama's campaign for president will be won or lost one cell phone at a time.
On Thursday, night the Obama campaign caused a near-blackout of cell-phone use within INVESCO Field after officials urged supporters to send a text message to the Obama headquarters.
Hawaii state Obama coordinator Andy Winer called the convention a "galvanizing force," but on Thursday it was also one of the biggest data-mining efforts in political history.
Ray Rivera, an Obama state coordinator, told the crowd of 80,000 that an estimated 30,000 text messages beamed out of Mile High Stadium to the Obama campaign.
The intent was not to give the Illinois senator a warm feeling, but to give the Democrats the identity of thousands of new Obama supporters.
"This is brilliant stuff. Usually you have to pay people to call up and ask if you are an Obama supporter," Winer said. "You identify probable Obama supporters in precincts across the country. It is a voter ID program without having to spend any money."
The Obama campaign has collected hundreds of thousands of cell phone numbers not just from the stadium crowd, but from all those who last week sent Obama a text message to be notified of the vice presidential pick.
All those numbers are cross-checked to find people's names; those names are then matched with voter lists, and the result is a new list of possible Obama supporters.
U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie, an early Obama supporter and an early adapter of the Internet's political tools, says the cell phone is the way to new voters.
"We are appealing to an entirely new class of voter: the Internet generation, the people with no landlines, people whose sole form of personal communication is a cell phone," Abercrombie said.
With an estimated 16 percent of the national population owning only a cell phone, Abercrombie noted that these people don't show up on national polls.
"My chief of staff, married, three kids, no landline, she has never been polled about anything," Abercrombie said.
Winer and Abercrombie predict that this connected, Internet generation will be the new path to political success.
"Those people are wired into the Internet," Winer said. "They are high-information voters who are more likely to vote and be Obama supporters based on research."
Abercrombie added: "They are also more likely to reach out to others and make sure their friends are registered and vote."
Winer has already gotten his marching orders from the Obama headquarters in Chicago.
"This weekend, there is major voter registration going on," he said. "I have been told I need to find a precinct captain for every precinct. They are serious about it. They want progress reports. They want to know what are efforts are."
Also this weekend, the Obama campaign is finding a new place to look for Hawaii voters: Las Vegas.
Winer is accompanying U.S. Sen. Dan Akaka to campaign rallies looking for former Hawaii residents now living in Nevada. Later, U.S. Reps. Mazie Hirono and Abercrombie along with Mayor Mufi Hannemann will also travel to Nevada for Obama.