$150 Million, 3.1 million supporters and 100,000 in St. Louis

Obama campaign manager David Plouffe released this video this morning, reporting in on their record breaking month, and discussing the strategy in the final two weeks. $150 milion. 3.1 million donors. 100,000 people in St Louis.  Simply incredible. 

What Plouffe - in his classically understated fashion - describes in this video is the largest and most powerful grassroots organization ever built in the history of American politics.  For those readers of our blog are well aware, we believe this new Obama-led people-based model of how to organize an advocacy effort has fundamentally changed American politics forever.  The emergence of this "new politics" is something we'ven writing and talking about at NDN for years now, and in early 2005, with the help of Joe Trippi, Markos Moulitsas and others, even started a new affiliate, the New Politics Institute, to better study the emergence of a whole new way to organize our politics. These numbers - and what will likely be extraordinary October and November numbers to come - will be seen in the coming years as the moment when all of American politics tipped, when there was a before and after, when we moved from a broadcast-based to a people-based model of how to organize arguments, campaigns and advocacy. When a "new politics" was born. 

Back in February, I reflected back on the early evidence of the success of this new model, and argued that one of the new effects of this new model, properly applied, was the emergence of a "virtuous cycle of participation," which still seems relevant today: 

A Virtuous Cycle of Participation - Finally, Obama has one very powerful advantage in these final days that is hard to see and evaluate - the power of his virtual community across the country. We saw the power of this community with the truly extraordinary amount of money it raised for him in January. But equally important in these final days will be the virtual door knocking these millions of people will be doing - emails to their address books, actions on MySpace, Facebook and other social networking sites, text messages sent to friends, viral videos linked too, and comments left on blogs, newspapers and call in radio shows. It is no exaggeration to say that this million or so impassioned Obama supporters will reach tens of millions of voters in highly personal ways in the next few days, providing a messaging and personal validation of Obama that may be equal in weight to the final round of TV ads, free media and traditional grassroots methods.

All the way back in 2003, I wrote an essay about this new era of participation in politics that argued the new Dean campaign model was changing the way we had to imagine what a Presidential campaign was all about. In the 20th century, a Presidential campaign was about 30 second spots, tarmac hits and 200 kids in a headquarters. In the 21st century, the race for the Presidency would be about ten million people going to work each day, wired into the campaign through the campaign's site, through email, sms, social networking sites etc acting as full partners in the fight not just passive couch potatoes to be persuaded.

This is a very different model of politics. One begun by Dean but being taken to a whole other level by Obama. It puts people and their passion for a better nation at the core of politics. When used correctly, it creates a virtuous cycle of participation, where more and more people engage, take an action and bring others in, creating a self-perpetuating and dynamic network of support. It is also why the endorsements of entities with large, active virtual communities - Kerry.org, MoveOn - is so meaningful for Obama. He has created an on-line ecosystem that can quickly take advantage of the support of the millions of people now doing politics in this new 21st century way and exponentially grow his dynamic community of change.

The Democratic Party is one entire Presidential cycle ahead of the Republicans in adopting this new model, and I will argue it is simply not possible for the Republican nominee to catch up this year. Too much experimentation, too much trial and error goes into inventing this new model for it to be easily and quickly adapted. It has to be invented, not adapted. I'm sure the GOP will catch up over time, but this year year the only GOP candidate who has taken this new model seriously has been Ron Paul - and they have paid the price. Obama raised almost as much money in January of this year as John McCain raised in all of 2007. Democrats are raising much more money across the board, seeing historic levels of voter turnout, increased Party registrations and millions more working along side with the campaigns - all of which is creating an extraordinary virtuous cycle of participation that continues to grow the number getting engaged in politics as never before. While there can be little doubt that anger towards Bush and disapointment with his government is a driving force behind this, the key takeaway is that the adoption of this new politics by Democrats allowed the Party to take advantage of this tidal wave in unprecedented ways, and will be one of the Democratic Party's most significant advantages going into the fall elections.

Much attention has been given to the money raised by this Obama network. Much more needs to be given to the power of it to deliver message, provide personal validation to friends, neighbors, colleagues and peers in ways so powerful, and ways never seen before in American history. I have no doubt that it has been the campaign's ability to foster and channel the passion of his supporters - creating a vrituous cycle of particpation - into an unprecedented national network - helping amplify and reinforce the power of Obama's argument - that is playing a critical role in Obama's closing the gap with Clinton in these final exciting and dramatic days before Super Tuesday.

The explosion of all this money, these people and their passion in our politics, is going to have an extraordinary long-term impact on the center-left side of American politics. I took a look at all this in a recent essay, More Evidence Of A Sustained Progressive Revival, which argues that what we have been seeing these last few years with arrival of the netroots, the blogosphere, the Obama campaign and so much else is a fundamental reinvention of center-left politics in the United States and the emergence of what has the potential to be a very modern, very powerful and very 21st century progressive movement. 

Friends these are exciting days.  Kudos to David Plouffe, Steve Hildebrand, Joe Rospars, David Axelrod, Bill Burton the rest of the history-making Obama team - and of course Barack and Michelle Obama - for not just what they have done but what they will also leaving behind.