Barack Obama, David Axelrod, David Plough and Optimism

I was watching 60 Minutes last night.  They did a piece on the Obama campaign featuring David Axelrod and David Plough, the campaign’s chief strategist and campaign manager.  Steve Kroft asked how President Elect Obama was able to win in Indiana and North Carolina, states that have been traditional Republican strongholds.

David Plough answered.  The first thing he said was, “First of all, we believed we could win those states.”  Then he went on to describe the ground strategy in each – lots of field offices, lots of volunteers and sophisticated information gathering and recording. 

Mr. Plough’s immediate response really got my attention.  “First of all, we believed we could win those states.”  The campaign was confident that they could win these two states.  Self confidence is one of the keys to success that I discuss in Straight Talk for Success.  If you want to become self confident, you need to do three things: 1) become an optimist; 2) face your fears and act; and 3) surround yourself with positive people.

The Obama campaign was optimistic that it could win states in which Democratic candidates had not won in years.  The third point of The Optimist Creed says, “Promise yourself to look at the sunny side of everything and make your optimism come true.”  That’s what the Obama campaign did.  By the way, if you want a copy of The Optimist Creed that you can frame and hang in your workplace, send an e mail to with the words “Optimist Creed” in the subject line.

Instead of saying, “Democrat’s don’t win in North Carolina and Indiana,” and just giving up, Mssrs. Axelrod and Plough looked at the sunny side and went for it.  They made their optimism come true by employing my second and third pieces of advice on self confidence: you’re your fears and act and surround yourself with positive people.

They faced their fears.  Going into the election, recent history was not on their side.  However, they created a bold plan.  They set up numerous field offices – 44 in Indiana alone, and recruited volunteers to do the hard work of knocking on doors, making phone calls and entering data into computers. 

By so doing, they surrounded the campaign and candidate with positive people who were willing to do whatever it took to make the campaign’s optimism about winning in North Carolina and Indiana come true. 

I spent some time as an Obama volunteer in Colorado.  The enthusiasm in the field office where I worked was contagious.  We were all positive, we helped one another, and we did the work it took to help President Elect Obama win Colorado.  Everything I believe about surrounding yourself with positive people was reinforced by my experience with the Obama campaign.

The common sense point here is simple.  Self confidence is a key to success – in political campaigns and in your life and career.  The Obama campaign believed it could win in North Carolina and Indiana, Colorado too for that matter.  Then it set out to do whatever it took to win.  Successful people do the same.  They are self confident.  They begin with a belief that they can succeed – in finding a job, getting a promotion, starting a business – and then they do the work necessary to make that success a reality.  There's no denying this.  First you have to believe, then you have to the work.

That’s my take on how believing in yourself is the beginning of all success.  What’s yours?  Please leave a comment sharing your thoughts with us.  I value and appreciate all of your comments.  As always, thanks for reading – and writing.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email


  1. Self Confidence is a key to success. I believe that 150 %. The example that you used in your blog today, I don’t think it actually applies.
    Political Elections and especially National Elections are generally dominated by who has the most money, not who has the most self-confidence. Although the Obama camp definitely had tremendous confidence the entire campaign, I don’t believe that Self-Confidence was one of the major factors involved.
    That’s my opinion Bud and that doesn’t mean that I am right. Political Election success is a different animal then most other types of success. Elections can be bought, sold and thrown and also can be earned or denied on promises, false promises or just out right lies. Self Confidence is a key to success but I don’t believe that was truly the case in this case.

  2. Steve:
    Thanks for your comment. I agree that there is not a 100% correlation here.
    On the other hand, the first thing David Plough said when asked how they won North Carolina and Indiana was “we believed we could.” I think it takes that kind of self confidence to win — in politics or in life.
    The Democrats’ 50 state strategy was optimistic. They tried to win all 50 states. They failed miserably in some states like Oklahoma. On the other hand, they did turn several red states blue.
    Granted they had all the money, the tanking economy and Bush’s lack of popularity going for them.
    I’m not suggesting that the election was won on self confidence alone. I do believe however, that the Obama campaign displayed a lot of confidence with their 50 state strategy.
    I think that people interested in succeeding in their life and career need to believe they can succeed, in order to put their own correct life and career success strategies into play.
    Thanks again for your comment. You helped me clarify my thinking on comparing Plough’s statement with my thoughts on perosnal success.
    All the best,

Speak Your Mind


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.