Business

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

220px-David_Plouffe_official_portrait

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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