There are two main reasons why Barack Obama is the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee: the ability to attract new faces to the political process, and his campaign's organizational skill at putting those new faces productively to work.
Here's an example: Tom Mullens of Thousand Oaks is a Vietnam veteran who became engaged in politics just four years ago, inspired by the candidacy of fellow Vietnam vet John Kerry. I first met him four years ago this month when he was gearing up to show his support for Kerry by driving his motorcycle from the Santa Monica Pier to the Democratic National Convention in Boston.
Mullens has stayed involved. He infomed me in an e-mail today that the Obama campaign asked him if he would help put together a statewide "Veterans for Obama" group. Mullens reports that he made a few calls, and then was tapped by the national campaign yesterday to become co-chairman of California Veterans for Obama.
"Amazing how far a motorcycle will take you," Mullens wrote.
It was the second grassroots example in two weeks I've seen of the Obama camp's skill in empowering volunteers.
Two weeks ago I had received an e-mail from the campaign announcing that volunteers would be hosting thousands of Saturday house parties across the country. I thought very little of it until that Saturday morning when I found a green index card tucked under my doormat inviting members of my household to an Obama house party taking place one street over. That told me two things: The Obama campaign was organized enough to get professionally printed invitation-cards in the hands of volunteers who agreed to host house parties, and also organized enough to provide those volunteers with lists of registered Democrats in their neighborhoods (my college-age son is one).
Because of his demonstrated appeal to young voters, Obama will have no shortage of enthusiastic volunteers during the general election campaign. The challenge will be to put them usefully to work. The campaign did that effectively during the primaries, especially in Iowa, and early indications are that it is ready to repeat that effort in the fall.