NEDRA PICKLER, AP News
Call them Kool-Aid drinkers. Political romantics. Starry-eyed dreamers.
But as the marathon Democratic primary campaign nears an end, Barack Obama's staff is on the verge of vindicating its belief that the eloquent black freshman senator from Illinois was a unique candidate who could win the Democratic nomination in one of the biggest upsets in presidential politics.
The band of Obama loyalists who imagined that could happen have stunned even themselves with their success against Hillary Rodham Clinton, who appeared to have wrapped up the nomination last year, before any votes were cast. Now, they face a new challenge with the impending nomination and campaign against Republican John McCain.
If they succeed, many team members could be helping run the country eight months from now. Presidents often appoint campaign advisers to top administration jobs.
The team was led by calm and focused campaign manager David Plouffe; their strategy was inspired by the candidate's experience as a community organizer. They built a campaign designed to accomplish what other political sensations like Gary Hart and Howard Dean failed to do — turn the energy and excitement of the Obama phenomenon into long-term results.