British politics: still learning from the Obama campaign

As Britain’s politicians turn to Obama advisers for help, we republish our analysis of the campaign methods used by the US president.

In the world of political consultancy, they don’t come any bigger than David Axelrod.

The Chicago-based strategist masterminded Barack Obama’s successful election campaigns for the senate in 2004 and the presidency in 2008 and 2012.

His appointment now as Ed Miliband’s senior strategic adviser may not rank as highly on his CV, but it certainly presents him with an intriguing challenge.

The 2015 General Election will undoubtedly be a tightly fought and unpredictable contest, putting Axelrod’s political experience and communication skills fully to the test.

He will be pitted against Jim Messina, his former Obama colleague who is advising David Cameron, and Ryan Coetzee, the former chief executive of South Africa’s Democratic Alliance who is working for Nick Clegg.

Some commentators have responded to these appointments by arguing they reflect an inferiority complex in British politics.  One labour politician is reputed to have said ‘what does Axelrod know about voters in Maidenhead?’

But, while local knowledge and doorstep campaigning will always be important, British politicians need to raise their game in using the ever increasing array of communication channels to reach voters. So why not learn from the best in the business?

The Obama campaign broke new ground in the way it shaped its messages and delivered them relentlessly through every conceivable channel, from traditional posters and fliers to social media and video. 

In 2009, Freshwater published an analysis of the campaign. Written by a field officer who delivered a 96% vote for Obama in West Philadelphia, the briefing paper looked at the campaign’s diverse methods from an insider’s perspective.

‘Learning from the Obama Campaign’ by Cerys Howell is a good starting point for anyone who wants to understand modern political campaigning and why Miliband has turned to Axelrod for help. CLICK HERE to download

Photo © Everett Collection / Shutterstock.com


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Impact Report 2017

Impact report 2017