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What Next for Obama's Text-Messaging Database?

By Jose Antonio Vargas
"Rosa sat so Martin could walk Martin walked so Barack could run Barack is running so our children can fly."

That 86-letter text message is being forwarded from cellphone to cellphone. It began among African Americans then went viral, posted in various blogs. Exactly when it was first sent, who sent it and how many times it has been forwarded, we don't know.

Another unknown, and a hot topic among the political digiterati: How many cellphone numbers, through its nearly 18-month-old text messaging program, are in Sen. Barack Obama's database?

Scott Goodstein, the text guru who runs the program, declines to say. Same goes for his boss, Joe Rospars, who oversees Triple O, Obama's online operation. But since the campaign has been tireless in collecting their supporters' cell numbers -- they introduced Sen. Joe Biden as Obama's vice presidential choice by text -- many guess that it's in the millions.

The thing about texting is that it's not free; prices vary from per-text charges to monthly subscriptions. Also, unlike with e-mails and phone calls, which often come unsolicited and unwelcomed, you have to opt in to receive text messages. In other words, you receive the text because you want to be texted. This combination makes texting, for many, more personal and immediate than phone calls and e-mails. Some people only text with their close friends and relatives.

Still, alongside YouTube and Facebook, texting is one of the big X factors of this presidential campaign. Sen. John McCain doesn't have a text program, though the National College Republican Committee, which is campaigning for him, is experimenting with texting at various schools. Members of the College Republican group at Old Dominion University, the largest school in the voter-rich region of Hampton Roads, for example, received this text a few weeks ago: "Register 2 vote @dmv or local library. 2 wks left, n it takes 5 min, tell your fam n friends, practice your right 2 democracy."

Outside of the campaigns, nonpartisan groups targeting the under-30 electorate have used text messaging to register voters and turn them out on Tuesday. Rock the Vote, which registered more than 2.4 million young voters this cycle, teamed up with AT&T and launched a nationwide mobile campaign in mid-December, in time for the Iowa caucuses.

The 25-year-old Student PIRGs, the granddaddy of youth mobilizing groups, married text with its on-the-ground field operation. Its 85 staffers and 2,000 volunteers, scattered in 150 campuses in 20 states, asked students to text "studentvote" to the number 41411; students then immediately received a text that read: "Don't forget to register to vote on" According to a study released by PIRGS (which partnered with CREDO Mobile and the University of Notre Dame) a few days ago, texting young voters increased turnout on Super Tuesday by 4.6 percentage points. That day, when 24 states (and American Samoa) held their primaries and caucuses, PIRGS and CREDO sent text message "get out to vote" reminders to 3,600 randomly selected young voters.

But even officials at groups such as Rock the Vote and PIRGs have been surprised by the breadth and scope of Obama's texting program.

In August, Obama introduced Obama Mobile, a site where users can access the latest Obama news and download videos on their cellphones -- a first for a presidential candidate. Two months later, in another electoral first, the campaign rolled out a free iPhone application that supporters can use to organize their address book by state and make it easier for them to make calls. Within the first week, the free application was the eighth-most-downloaded on iTunes. As of Sunday night, it ranked No. 50, ahead of AOL Instant Messaging and behind iBaseball.

Supporters receive texts specific to their state. Voters living in states that allow early voting received this text on Friday at 5:41 p.m. EST: "Vote for Barack NOW. Early vote locations are open until 7 pm today. Find your location at or call 877-235-6226." Supporters in Virginia got this text at 11:04 a.m. Saturday: "Help make history. Volunteer on Election Day to help Barack win VA! We still need to fill many 2 hour shifts. REPLY with V2 your NAME ZIP (ex: V2 John 22030)." Identical, but state-specific, versions of the text were sent in Pennsylvania, New Mexico and Colorado.

The program is not without its kinks. Many had to wait minutes, if not hours, to get the news that Biden was Obama's running mate. At 8:24 p.m. Eastern time, supporters in New Mexico were told that polls open at 7 a.m. Five minutes later, another text arrived, this one reading: "CORRECTION: Vote for Barack Tuesday! Polls are open in NM from 7am-7pm. For location info visit: or call 877-662-4264. Please fwd this msg."

Notice how the text, filled with information, is asked to be forwarded.

"In terms of both marketing and execution, the Obama campaign has been pretty brilliant in their use of text messaging, and I was quite impressed that they also evolved over the campaign," Tim Chambers, co-founder of Media 50 Group, a start-up that focuses on the mobile political space, and co-author of a study called "Mobile Media in 21st Century Politics," told The Trail. "But I was equally if not more impressed by their moving beyond text messaging with their mobile Web site, and into their native iPhone application. In each case, they were breaking new ground for political mobile action, writing some of the rules as they went, and foreshadowing what I think will be to come."

By Post Editor  |  November 2, 2008; 11:37 PM ET
Categories:  The Clickocracy  
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Next: McCain to Campaign in N.M. and Colo. on Election Day


"How can anyone who is not a millionaire cheer John McCain, who has said he wants to extend the tax breaks for the wealthiest instead of returning the tax for them to what it was during the Clinton administration, as Obama proposes?"

Betty, I know ten thousand or more coal miners in West Virginia this morning who are waking up to read the Spectator and none are millionaires, yet all are questioning any support they may have had for Obama.
Bill Clinton said in 1988 that removing the cap on social secutity taxes was " one wants to." THAT'S Exactly what Obama wants to do- it will hurt small business. Obama cleverly claims that 98% of small businesses make under 250k and therefore won't be hurt. He conveniently leaves out the fact that ALL SMALL businesses are included in his figure- EBAY sellers who work at home by themselves, for example. 50% of all small business INCOME will suffer additional heavy taxes due to Obama's unprecidented move.
His "most aggressive cap and trade policy"- his words- will put tens of thousands of coal workers out of work across the country- New Mexico, Colorado, W. Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Alabama, Kentucky, and Virginis. WHO WILL EMPLOY THESE PEOPLE? THE SMALL BUSINESSES WHO ARE BEING MORE HEAVILY TAXED?

The NY Times last week covered the horrible jobs picture in Rhode Island- 8.8% unemployment as the state with the highest cumulative business taxes-

Wake up Betty, don't cut off your nose to spite your face, by voting for Obama in order to "stick it" to Exxon/Mobile and in turn ruining the entire job creating small and medium sized business sector in our great country.

Millionaires, like Penny Pritzker and Barbara Streisand can AFFORD to support Obama Betty- we can't.

Posted by: thecannula | November 3, 2008 11:27 AM | Report abuse

Obama's Contemptuous Quest for Ohio and Pennsylvania
Barack Obama, who allegedly wants so much to change the map, to overcome our differences, to soothe our tensions, sure has a funny way of showing it.

Yesterday, Newsbusters uncovered a tape of Obama discussing coal-fired plants with the San Francisco Chronicle. Safely seated at the reclaimed wood table of the Chronicle editorial board, Obama felt free to remark without remorse or hesitance about his desire to bankrupt the coal industry to serve the environmentalist cause:

"If somebody wants to build a coal power plant they can, it's just that it will bankrupt them because they are going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that's being emitted," Barack Obama said to the San Francisco Chronicle in January.

Obama talks out of both sides of his mouth and Americans are aware of it.

Posted by: sonnychiba72 | November 3, 2008 11:14 AM | Report abuse

The Obama campaign has in every single respect been stunning and will be a model for campaigns for the next 50 years.

Can you imagine the value of the database they now possess! it's worth millions!

Congratulations to all the hard working volunteers, and paid staff who have made this the most successful political campaign in recent history, and for involving the electorate in such a huge way.
Interest in politics in America has never ever been so intense.

The first giant step begins Tuesday.


Posted by: kentaylor1 | November 3, 2008 8:01 AM | Report abuse

Why is this mindless drivel being published? The original blog is stupid, and the posted comments are mostly irrational rants by morons.
Is this the best that can do?

Posted by: Ozexpatriate | November 3, 2008 4:56 AM | Report abuse

What Hitler could not do to the Jews, they will do to themselves in voting for obama - a man whose closest friends and allies are rabidly anti-Israel (Wright, Khalidi). “You shall know a man by the company he keeps,” wrote Aesop long ago. They could see if they chose to see, but all they choose to see is the "D" after his name - refusing to see that the "D" is for "Destruction" of Israel.

Posted by: segeny | November 3, 2008 4:40 AM | Report abuse

What Hitler could not do to the Jews, they will do to themselves in voting for obama - a man whose closest friends and allies are rabidly anti-Israel (Wright, Khalidi). “You shall know a man by the company he keeps,” wrote Aesop long ago. They could see if they chose to see, but all they choose to see is the "D" after his name - refusing to see that the "D" is for "Destruction" of Israel.

Posted by: segeny | November 3, 2008 4:40 AM | Report abuse

Obama: We’ll bankrupt any new coal plants
"Let me sort of describe my overall policy.
What I’ve said is that we would put a cap and trade system in place that is as aggressive, if not more aggressive, than anybody else’s out there.
So, if somebody wants to build a coal plant, they can — it’s just that it will bankrupt them, because they are going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that’s being emitted. The only thing I’ve said with respect to coal, I haven’t been some coal booster."

These were Obama's words in a San Francisco interview in January, 2008. Coal provides 49% of domestic electrical power, and any rise in the cost of producing that energy will raise its cost to consumers and reduce the amount produced.

The coal-based economics of Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Kentucky, Ohio, and other states will be the first to feel this new policy. Let’s hope the voters there pay attention.

Posted by: sonnychiba72 | November 3, 2008 1:37 AM | Report abuse

McCain supporters talk about "Obama doesn't 'Add Up'"...

What doesn't "ADD UP" is that someone would vote for the same political party that has DEMONSTRATED that they are IRRESPONSIBLE LEADERS.

Our economy is in the hole, respect for the US dollar has fallen, our military is transparent to our enemies, our beloved Constitution has been assaulted, and now the same party is picking on little old ladies and whining about their tax bill.

Save OUR Country and Constitution from the PROVEN FAILURE of the Republican Party

VOTE Obama Nov 4

Posted by: thenotoriousflavio | November 3, 2008 1:19 AM | Report abuse





(With apologies to Jack Nicholson and Tom Cruise)

JOHN MCCAIN: You want answers?

KEITH OLBERMANN: I think I'm entitled to them.

JOHN MCCAIN: You want answers?

KEITH OLBERMANN: I want the truth!

JOHN MCCAIN: You can't handle the truth! Son, we live in a world that has a certain, precious amount of wealthy people. And those wealthy people have the right to protect what they have, any way they can. If they don’t do it, who's gonna do it?

You? You, Keith Olbermann? I, as their candidate, have a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom. You weep for those lower and middle classes and you curse the people who give them jobs. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know: that all those unemployed, underemployed and soon-to-be-unemployed people, while tragic, probably didn’t work very hard anyway. (Look at how little they earned compared to CEOs' salaries and their well-deserved golden parachutes!!!) And the existence of trickle down Republican economics, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, is what has raised that free market tide so that all boats, big and small, could float...You don't want the truth.

Because deep down, in places you don't talk about these facts, like with your friends at Georgetown parties, you want me on call. You need me on call at three in the morning.

We use phrases like “loose regulations, squishy credit lines and a warm place to count the profits” ...we use these words as the backbone to a life spent defending our captains of industry. You use 'em as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who still rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very economic bubble I helped George Bush to provide, then questions the manner in which we provided it!

I'd rather you just said thank you and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest you grow some patriotic gonads and eschew socialism. Either way, I don't give a damn what you think you're entitled to!

KEITH OLBERMANN: Did you support George Bush and all his works?

JOHN MCCAIN: (quietly) I did the job that the Republican Party sent me to do.

KEITH OLBERMANN: Did you support George Bush and his economic policies?

JOHN MCCAIN: You're goddamn right I did!!!


Posted by: Martinedwinandersen | November 3, 2008 12:19 AM | Report abuse


Barack Obama-Joe Biden,
are the people's choice for '08,
because the country's at risk,
and we've gotta play it straight.

And then come 2012,
we will re-elect that ticket
to finish whate'er remains
to pull the USA out of the thicket.

And in 2016, who knows what's in store?
For those of us who believe in redemption...
maybe a repentant Sarah Palin will lead
the GOP, in a more hopeful direction.

Posted by: Martinedwinandersen | November 3, 2008 12:05 AM | Report abuse


The GOP's doleful prospects extend to North Carolina, where the fruits of a rotten campaign mean Sen. Libby (Dole) is about to be canned.

Posted by: Martinedwinandersen | November 3, 2008 12:04 AM | Report abuse

It's five to midnight for the out-of-control conductor of the erstwhile Straight Talk Express and the Alaskan Moose-o-lini.

Really put the country first, and vote Obama-Biden, 08!!!

Posted by: Martinedwinandersen | November 3, 2008 12:03 AM | Report abuse

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