Obama foot soldiers pack up after demanding campaign

(CBS News) COLUMBUS, Ohio -- In his victory speech Tuesday night, President Barack Obama said he had "the best campaign team and volunteers in the history of politics."

You could forgive him for the hyperbole, but there is no arguing with the team's success.

In Ohio, the foot soldiers of the Obama campaign -- volunteers from as far away as Washington, D.C. -- packed up Wednesday and headed back to their lives.

The seemingly ever-present face of the campaign in the Buckeye State and the other battlegrounds had been micro-managed by the architects of Obama's 2008 victory: David Axelrod, the president's trusted adviser, David Plouffe, a senior strategist, and national campaign manager Jim Messina.

They set up their Chicago headquarters two years ago.

"The high point was this weekend -- 5.2 million doors we knocked on, just this weekend," Messina said. "You know 18 months of building it for this moment and watching our neighborhood team leaders take it over and say, 'It's our campaign.'"

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A high-tech trove of demographic data -- including details like a voter's favorite TV show -- fueled calls and blazed trails, not just to neighborhoods, but to specific homes and individuals inside them.

In Ohio, 21,000 volunteers worked the campaign's last weekend -- the spearhead of 139 field offices statewide. Mitt Romney had 40 offices.

"We have an intimate relationship with the voters we're focusing on," said Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern. "That screen door knock that occurs not once, twice, three times, but four and five times over the course of a summer into the fall."

When necessary, the approach was low tech. Volunteers scooped up strangers off the street and drove them to the polls to build an early voting lead.

Then there was the ad blitz that began this summer. It defined Romney as an exploitative businessman unconcerned about the middle class.

But Jim Messina said that ultimately, it was face-to-face contact that sealed the deal.

"We invested in the grassroots," Messina said. "And for a year, people said, 'Why are they spending so much money in these states?' And we were helping local people build a volunteer grassroots army out there to talk to their friends."

  • Dean Reynolds

    Dean Reynolds is a CBS News National Correspondent based in Chicago.

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