Obama Campaign Dispatching Thousands

By Peter Slevin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, June 13, 2008

CHICAGO, June 12 -- Moving to harness the grass-roots energy that helped win the Democratic nomination, Sen. Barack Obama's campaign will deploy 3,600 volunteers in 17 states this weekend, each committed to six consecutive weeks of full-time political work.

The project, launched two months before the senator from Illinois became the presumptive nominee, is a measure of his determination to out-organize Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in states that could swing a close election.

The campaign put out word in April about "Obama Organizing Fellowships," an approach that went well beyond the "y'all come" model of luring volunteers with free doughnuts for two-hour canvassing stints. Supporters were required to answer essay questions, supply references and go through a telephone interview with campaign staff members.

In return for a promise to give the campaign at least six weeks of their lives, they were promised training in community organizing techniques.

A cover letter from Obama, who spent three years in the 1980s working in impoverished Chicago neighborhoods, spoke of lessons in the "basic organizing principles that this campaign and our movement for change are built on."

Obama urged supporters to apply and to "put progressive values to work in the real world."

More than 10,000 people applied, said Obama strategist Jon Carson.

"They didn't have to have campaign experience before," said Buffy Wicks, the director of the campaign's national volunteer program. "The best organizers are people who are passionate about what they're doing. We were looking for folks who had really compelling stories."

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