Business

Why Google’s Eric Schmidt calls Uber’s new political mastermind a ‘game-changer’

If anyone thought that Uber was going to take a more mild approach to government regulators, they can put that idea to bed. Today, the alternative car service announced that it has appointed David Plouffe, one of the masterminds of the Obama campaign, to its policy shop.

“I’ve worked closely with David, and believe this is a game-changer for Uber. David is uniquely suited to scale and lead the same kind of insurgent campaign he did in 2008 for a Silicon Valley tech company, bridging the worlds of business and politics,” said Google chairman Eric Schmidt, who worked on Obama’s campaign (Google’s investment arm, Google Ventures, is an investor in Uber).

As campaign manager in 2008, Plouffe was instrumental in the guerrilla-style campaigning that helped the underdog senator beat Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary.

The thing that the Obama campaign did better than anyone else was grassroots organizing. Obama won handily in primary caucus states, which often hinge on a small turnout of active supporters who vote in groups for their chosen candidate. In the more traditional primaries, Clinton often won.

But it was the early caucus states that helped propel Obama to victory over Clinton. Thanks to a combination of social-media strategy and field organizing, Obama eventually took the presidency.

Uber finds itself in a similar underdog spot today. Consumers have been the biggest advocates against local taxi unions fighting car-service startups. In Washington, D.C., when taxi unions tried to come up with a price floor for Uber rides, a massive Internet protest shut down the proposal down.

Now, Uber finds itself attacked on a multistate front, just like the Obama campaign. It needs to replicate the same consumer backlash it galvanized in Washington, D.C., throughout the country.

“City councils are voting on Uber all the time, and we have state legislatures voting on us, on the regular,” said CEO Travis Kalanick. “And there are even some referendums.”

The sharing economy now has one of the nation’s foremost political strategists advancing its grassroots strategy. Things are about to get interesting.

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17 comments
Chris Grey
Chris Grey

A $17 billion company is an "underdog". Really? In reality Uber is already a massive global corporate behemoth that has more money than all taxi companies combined. It is exactly the opposite of an underdog. Great spin though. That's what Plouffe does best. Spin it to win it. Politics as usual.

Taylor Miles
Taylor Miles

Why do they have to hire a political lobbyist in the first place?

David Moshons
David Moshons

I don't see why we don't focus on expanding public transportation in America like the rest of the world, instead we have stupid services like Uber.

TweetsByVivek
TweetsByVivek

@S_dF Uber finally realized that techies might not be the best to deal with policy

Carlos Alvarez
Carlos Alvarez

Anyone who can get that idiot elected--twice--can sell anything. I look forward to Uber and Lyft in all the cities where I'm still forced to use a taxi.

Jacky Poteau
Jacky Poteau

We, Proud Uber Riders, are simply asking that we are not left out when Uber is about to go public. PLEASE PAY ATTENTION TO THIS. It will be only fair.

Benjamin Home
Benjamin Home

The thing is uber is not a car sharing service. Much like McDonald's is not a food sharing service. Uber is a taxi service period.

Swag Valance
Swag Valance

All I know is I got a political spam from Uber - a service I like - and it forced me to unsubscribe from their mailing list. It's failed already.