Im Interview: Marlon Marshall

Marlon Marshall, Wahlkampfstratege in Barack Obamas Kampagnenteam 2012Als Deputy Field Director spielte Marlon Marshall eine zentrale Rolle in Barack Obamas Wahlkampagne 2012. In dieser technischen und emotional wohl ausgefeiltesten politischen Kampagne verantwortete Marshall die Mobilisierung passiver Unterstützergruppen in aktive Wähler und die Kommunikation mit den Vorfeldorganisationen der Demokratischen Partei. Bevor er 2008 Obamas Wahlkampf im Staat Missouri leitete, war Marshall für die damalige Senatorin Hillary Rodham Clinton Field Director in Nevada, Ohio und Indiana aktiv. Zudem war er an John Kerrys Wahlkampf 2004 beteiligt.

Aus Ausblick auf seine Keynote auf dem Österreichischen Kommunikationstag stand uns Marlon Marshall für ein Interview zur Verfügung.

Mr. Marshall, your professional career has always been a political one. Since raising support for John Kerry in his 2004 presidential campaign in Missouri and Ohio, you managed several key states for Hillary Clinton and than took up responsibility on the national scale in both of Barack Obamas campaigns.

1. Where does your dedication to politics come from?
Marshall:  Public service was important to me ever since I was a kid.  My mom used to bring me with her to vote and I ‘voted’ at the kids booth.  She was also a public school teacher so always gave back to the community by teaching children.  In college, I had an opportunity to run for Student government, which I served on for three years, with the last year being Student Body Vice President.  I was lucky to have many successes during my term, including a program to recruit more people of color to the University of Kansas.  I knew soon after that I wanted to continue this work in my professional career.

2. Which steps in your career would you describe as most exciting?
Marshall:  Each opportunity I have had I have loved and they have all been exciting in their own way.  I would say my time in 2012 was probably the most exciting step in my career.  I was able to manage a large scale, national program.  Every statistic you could look at showed that this was a race we shouldn’t have won; unemployment rates, etc.  Yet we built the best grassroots operation in American politics and it worked.  It showed the world that grassroots organizing can work and makes change.

3. Regarding your position as Deputy Field Director: what have been your key responsibilities in the presidential campaign of 2012?
Marshall: I managed the day to day operations of our national field program.  I had a team of five national regional field directors who worked with the statewide field directors across the country.  Every state field program was different and unique in their own way, however, they were all built around the Neighborhood team model which emphasizes relationship building.  My job each day was to make sure that each state program were meeting their goals, that my team and I were giving them the support they need to do so, and that we built the largest ground game in presidential history.

4. What did your day look like during the 2012 US presidential campaign?
Marshall:  Every morning I met with the other department heads for 30 minutes. This was helpful and made sure our campaign was integrated around our common core goals, even though each department had their own goals. Following that,  I had a meeting with my team of 5.  We went over priorities for the day, which lasted 30 minutes.  This communication was important and encouraged collaboration with our team while also insuring we were always on the same page.  After that, I would be in meetings on various topics; sometimes about the resources we needed to allocate to a state, sometimes about online tools that could help our field program be better, etc.  I also had a one on one meeting each day with one of my regionals so we could deep dive into their states and make sure we were assessing each program constructively.

5. What was the most touching moment during these years of electoral campaigning?
Marshall: The day that Hillary Clinton withdrew from the presidential race in 2008.  I started with her campaign in March 2007 and worked every day until she gave her speech suspending her campaign.  It was an incredibly gracious and powerful speech.  Even though we lost that primary, I knew we had made history when she gave that speech.  It was a touching moment that reminded you that you don’t always do this work to win our lose, but you do it to change the course of history. She did that and continues to do it.

6. The campaigns you participated in combined personal charisma, superior organizational capacities and technological innovation in an unprecedented way.  Which new steps did the campaigning team take with regards to organization and technology?
Marshall: In 2012, we were really able to take a step forward with how we organized people not only in the field, but also online.  Voters and volunteers get their information and engage in so many different ways then when I first started campaigns.  A volunteer on our campaign could go online and feel like they were in their local office and have most of what they need to meet their neighbors and get their goals to help the President win.  Using technology to bridge that divide of online and offline organizing was a success in 2012.

7. Which character traits make a politician successful and distinguishable?
Marshall: Honesty and being genuine.  One of the reasons we were successful in 2012 is because people respect the President.  Even if they disagree with his policies, they know he was always being honest with them and always doing things for the right reasons.  Voters can sense that in a candidate.  There are many times a candidate votes for an issue that he or she thinks ‘fits’ their district, instead of voting for what really moves the ball forward.  If they are honest and genuine about the reasons they do this work or make those votes, it distinguishes them from other politicians.

8. In a nutshell: what turns a campaign into a success?
Marshall: Relationships.  Relationships are so important.  We were successful in 2012 because we were able to build teams of people who went out and talked to their neighbors.  All of that was built on relationships. It’s important for the staff also.  Focusing on the relational side of organizing ensures better communication and more teamwork, which are all core functions of being successful and making sure departments don’t operate in silos.