Obama campaign manager saw supposed threat in Huntsman candidacy

David Tonyan Contributor
Font Size:

WASHINGTON — Former ambassador to China and Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman could have been the greatest threat to the president’s re-election, Obama’s campaign manager claimed Tuesday morning.

“I think Huntsman would have been a tough general election campaign,” Jim Messina said at a breakfast event organized by the Politico website.

The fact that Huntsman is widely considered a “moderate” may have played into Messina’s supposed concern. Against Mitt Romney, “Barack Obama won moderates by 15 points,” Messina explained.

But it’s unlikely that Messina — an astute Democratic partisan — truly perceived Huntsman as a threat. The former Utah governor barely registered Republican support during the primary season.

Messina described how computerized analysis helped the Obama campaign survey battleground voters during the general election and tip the scales for the president in 2012.

“We built this thing called dashboard, which was the hardest thing we did in the campaign,” Messina said. “We’re going to track every single piece of metric in this campaign, and put it in one place.”

Data tracking allowed the Obama campaign to build support scores for voters in battleground states, ranking the likeliness a voter would support the president between 1 and 100. Using that data, the campaign focused on solidifying the president’s support among persuadable voters and avoided low-payoff, traditional get-out-the vote activities.

The Obama campaign spent less time “[k]nocking on doors of people who were never persuadable in this election” in 2012, Messina said.

The campaign also utilized targeted sharing — where users share web content with other people directly, instead of as a mass message — on Facebook to contact undecided voters using people they knew.

“The single most-persuasive person in an undecided voter’s life was their friends and family,” Messina explained.

Follow David on Twitter