Six years have passed since Jeff Blodgett helmed a political campaign. That 2002 effort notoriously ended with the death of his mentor and close friend Paul Wellstone, followed by the electoral defeat of stand-in candidate Walter Mondale.
Today it was announced that Blodgett will lead Barack Obama’s campaign in Minnesota. “It’s four months,” says Blodgett, speaking by telephone, of the electoral effort. “That’s definitely an intense, but manageable time frame. I’m fully fired up about it. I had trouble sitting on the sidelines. This one in partiuclar I didn’t want to sit on the sidelines.”
Blodgett has certainly not been idle in the intervening years. He founded Wellstone Action and serves as the nonprofit group’s executive director. The organization’s mission is to train liberal activists and candidates for elected office, with some 11,000 graduates since its inception. (Blodgett will take a leave of absence from Wellstone Action beginning July 1 to concentrate full-time on the Obama campaign.) He also worked as a senior adviser on Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s 2006 senate campaign and oversaw get-out-the-vote efforts for the 2004 Democratic presidential ticket in Minnesota.
Blodgett says he was enticed to get back into the game by the vigor of the Obama campaign and its ability to reach new voters, especially young people. “I’m really interested in figuring out how you harness that incredible energy that you see around his candidacy and turn it into an election machine,” he says. “How do you harness that and actually win an election?”
Blodgett characterizes Minnesota as a “must-win state for Obama.” And how will it impact the race if Gov. Tim Pawlenty ends up as the vice-presidential candidate on the Republican side? “If Pawlenty’s on the ticket that won’t change how we run,” Blodgett says. “I think it certainly ads to the competitivelnes of the state, and I do see the state as competitive. This state definitely isn’t being takein for the granted by the campaign.”