Hillary has run an awful campaign from a strategy standpoint.
Her entire campaign strategy was to win Iowa or come in second to Edwards, win NH, win win win and then lock it up on Super Tuesday. When she lost in Iowa, she emptied her coffers to win NH and then really, really, really invested in South Carolina. For reasons explicable only by the Clinton campaign drivers, they continued to plan–even up to the South Carolina primary–that Super Tuesday would be their knockout blow.
Contrast that strategy with what Obama has done: fueled by his fundraising machine, his campaign staff decided to do what they do best: organize at the community level. After Iowa and New Hampshire, they sort of ignored Nevada and even South Carolina and instead opened up field offices all over the place in Super Tuesday states.
…and they tricked the Clintons with one of the most deft head-fakes in modern campaign history. While Clinton feverishly followed Obama around in California, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut and even Missouri, Obama’s ground staff was operating offices all over places like Kansas, Idaho, Colorado, Utah, Minnesota, Missouri, Alabama, and New Mexico. If you think about the electorate in those states–blue collar, middle class, white–it should’ve been a slam dunk for Clinton to do well there…but she poured money into states like California, New York, and, yes, Arkansas (for reasons known only to them, the Clintons did some major ad buys in Arkansas; no, I don’t understand why, either) where her internal polling should’ve told her she needn’t bother because she had them already won.
While Clinton was running a wild goose chase in states where she was going to win, Obama was opening up field offices and getting commercials on the air in the Feb 9 and 12 states. Remember that Obama’s experience (funny how experience could actually win this nomination for him…) is that of a community organizer, which is basically what a caucus is. He blankets states with ads well in advance of primary dates, he has 3,000 paid organizers who have attended “Camp Obama” to learn how to do community and street-by-street politicking, and he opens up strategically-located offices in states and drops his army of organizers in there to do their thing. In all the states tonight, and in all the states going forward, by the time Clinton shows up in a state with field offices and tv ads, Obama has had a 7-10 day head start on her in those states, and put her at a deficit.
The story of the Obama campaign is likely to revolve around his incredible speeches and personal charisma, but Obama and his managers were smart and studied the 2004 campaign of Howard Dean and realized from the beginning that charisma and tv presence and advertising wasn’t enough…that there had to be some real “there” there. The grassroots organization and effectiveness of the Obamites at grinding things out on the ground the old fashioned way is the real reason they are where they are tonight.