Keys To Obama's Presidential Victory

Barack Obama won a decisive number of electoral votes in Tuesday's presidential race. Steve Hildebrand, deputy campaign manager for the Obama campaign, talks with Steve Inskeep about how they were able to get different demographics to the polls.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

This is Morning Edition from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

And I'm Steve Inskeep. Now that we know Barack Obama won, we're going to ask how he won. One of the people who worked for that victory is Steve Hildebrand. He's Obama's deputy campaign manager. And he says the campaign brought many young voters to the polls for the first time.

Mr. STEVE HILDEBRAND (Deputy Campaign Manager, Obama Campaign): We saw long lines of students voting. You know, that means the statistics played it out that, you know, those under 30 made up a larger electorate than 65 and above voters, and that's got to be unprecedented.

INSKEEP: Mr. Hildebrand, I want to give you another view of how the electorate changed in this election, and it comes from David Frum, the conservative writer who spoke with us earlier his morning. And here's some of what he said.

Mr. DAVID FRUM (Columnist, National Review Online): There was a big shift - a big change in turnout, a big increase in turnout among ethnic minorities and a big shift in Democratic preference among college-educated whites. The Republican future depends on changing one or the other of those two trends, either doing better among ethnic minorities or doing better among college-educated whites.

INSKEEP: Is he correct in that analysis?

Mr. HILDEBRAND: I haven't looked at it in full. But you know, certainly there was a huge turnout with African-Americans. There was a huge turnout amongst Hispanic voters all over the country. Florida, a great turnaround in the Hispanic vote, a vote that George Bush won by 14 or 15 percent, I believe, in 2004. Barack won it last night 57-42. It was very important for us to get that to the place that it was, and certainly a large part of the formula for Barack winning.

INSKEEP: And if I'm not mistaken, John McCain still won the overall white vote. But if you take out college-educated whites, that group that David Frum mentioned, you have another group that Obama seems to have done well with.

Mr. HILDEBRAND: Yes, very much so. And you know, I think that - I think, you know, your listeners are going to find this very interesting after, you know, so much of the discussion about taxes and what income levels and, you know, all of the back and forth that happened between John McCain and Barack Obama during this debate. But Barack actually won a majority of voters who make $50,000 or less, but he also won a majority of voters who make $200,000 and above, even though that's an income bracket that might take a bit of a hit.

INSKEEP: You're saying Senator Obama said to those people, I'm going to raise your taxes, and a majority of them voted for him anyway?

Mr. HILDEBRAND: Exactly.

INSKEEP: Do you think that something permanent has changed about the electorate in this election? It's just been four years since Republicans won a victory that seemed almost as crushing as yours was here in 2008. And just four years ago they were talking about a permanent Republican majority that seems to have evaporated. Were you willing to say this could be a permanent Democratic majority?

Mr. HILDEBRAND: Boy, it definitely depends on how, you know, well Barack serves as president, how well Democrats in Congress perform as to whether or not, you know, the voters stick with the Democrats.

INSKEEP: When you talk about it depending on how Barack Obama governs as president, do you intend to continue mobilizing people to be involved in the governing process, to contact their congressmen, to do what President Clinton once called a permanent campaign?

Mr. HILDEBRAND: But when Barack was considering running for the presidency, and understanding how polarized Washington was at that time, you know, he said, should lightning strike and we actually were to win the presidency, that would be, you know, incredible. But if we can't serve, if Washington continues to be just as polarized as it is today, we're just not going to get enough done. And so he made the statement, if we're going to do this, we need to build a grassroots movement that we take to Washington with us.

You know, he's going to need the American people to put pressure on Congress to do the right thing, to get behind his efforts whether it's providing health care for all Americans or getting our soldiers out of Iraq. You know, this is going to take millions of Americans to get involved and really be a part of this effort in Washington. For too long the special interest groups have had more power. I think under Barack's administration, that's going to dramatically change.

INSKEEP: Steve Hildebrand is deputy campaign manager for President-elect Barack Obama. Mr. Hildebrand, thanks very much.

Mr. HILDEBRAND: That sounds pretty nice, by the way.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. HILDEBRAND: Thanks so much.

INSKEEP: Well, congratulations to you. Take care now.

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