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Obama's Nobel prize shows world hungry for diplomacy: former campaign manager

TORONTO - The man behind Barack Obama's campaign to capture the world's most powerful office said Thursday that the U.S. president's Nobel Peace Prize shows there's a global "hunger" for diplomacy.

TORONTO - The man behind Barack Obama's campaign to capture the world's most powerful office said Thursday that the U.S. president's Nobel Peace Prize shows there's a global "hunger" for diplomacy.

David Plouffe, known as the organizational mastermind who directed Obama's triumphant run for the White House, addressed a business audience as the president accepted his honour half-a-world away in Oslo.

Obama became the first sitting U.S. president in 90 years and the third ever to win the prize - some say prematurely.

After chronicling the 2009 U.S. presidential campaign for his audience, Plouffe reflected on the significance of Obama's peace prize.

"It speaks to the fact that there is a huge audience across the world that has a hunger for diplomacy," Plouffe said.

"His presidency offers the promise of that, but you have to deliver."

In the aftermath of the election, people had a starry eyed view of the campaign, as it became a memorialized and mythologized event, woven with tales of triumph and celebrity.

Almost a year into office, the same grassroots support and goodwill is being tested.

A rocky rookie year has had the president confronting a shaky economy, job losses, health care debates and, more recently, the decision to send 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan.

"He's not making any decisions based on 2010 or 2012," said Plouffe, who is not a part of the current administration.

"I can assure you, if we were, we wouldn't have given a bunch of money to the auto industry or the bankers.

"This is not good politics, but this is what has to be."

Plouffe was in the city to promote his new book, "The Audacity to Win," which chronicles the candidate's daunting campaign and the relentless grassroots effort that made it happen.

For Obama to win, it required a complete overhaul of the political norm, Plouffe said.

"The political graveyard is littered with people who tried to change the electorate," he told the audience of professionals who clutched a copy of his book as they listened.

The campaign successes came in the form of attracting young people during the primaries by using technology such as email, Facebook and Twitter, said Plouffe, who noted the grassroots efforts had volunteers going door-to-door talking about Obama, meeting in coffee shops and bars to spread the message.

Right now, Obama has six million people on his Facebook account, four million following him on Twitter and 13 million people who are on an email list.

During the speech, Plouffe stressed the importance of mobilizing the same volunteers who helped Obama win the presidency to gain public support for U.S. health care reform.

"When Barack Obama spent two year years talking about hope and change in America he wasn't talking about grandiose, warm, gauzy feelings," said Plouffe.

"He was talking about health insurance reform."

The same tactics are in play as Obama tries to rally support for health care reform.

A couple of million volunteers are out trying to drum up public support and the administration is sending out videos online debunking Republican attacks on the issue.

But Plouffe says it's not the same game.

"It's more ephemeral. It's harder. The (presidential) campaign is easier," said Plouffe.

"Keeping the young people involved, the first time voters, is going to be hard."

 
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