Everyone agrees: Obama has run a superb campaign. He's put together a strong coalition of African-Americans, "latte liberals," young people, and the Democratic Party's liberal-left insurgency that was previously attracted to people like Bill Bradley and Gary Hart, and before them, George McGovern.
McGovern, along with Cong. Don Fraser, wrote the rules which governed the 1972 campaign. Four years earlier, in 1968, the Democratic Party had blown itself up in a dispute between the established powerbrokers and the anti-war left. The "McGovern Rules" were mostly about taking power away from "the establishment." In the future, nominees would be chosen in local caucuses and state primaries.
In caucuses, cohesive goal-directed groups can have influence beyond their numbers. This makes them ideal for insurgency-type campaigns. In 1972, we McGovernites took 9 out of 10 delegates in Ellis County, Kansas--a significant achievement especially when George McGovern was not exactly representative of local sentiment among traditional Democrats.
The McGovern campaign did this in thousands of county assemblies all across the nation, particularly in what are now called "red states." Note George McGovern's "red state" victories in this map of 1972 caucuses and primaries and compare it to the states Barack Obama has won through caucuses this year. This is not surprising, of course, considering that the Obama campaign has adopted the McGovern insurgency caucus strategy, added in internet organizing and fundraising, and, what's more, rallied the same McGovern constituency.
See the Buzzflash review of Bruce Miroff's book, The Liberals' Moment: The McGovern Insurgency and the Identity Crisis of the Democratic Party.
It's a bit of a gross generalization, but the McGovern wing of the Democratic Party became populated by the affluent, the college-educated, suburbanites and young people. The other wing...consisted of the working class, seniors, and the poor. African-Americans and Mexican-Americans have tended toward the second group, but are swing voters between the two factions.
That is a very basic description of the demographic dynamics witnessed so far in the current campaign, even down to the two "swing" blocs of minorities--African-Americans for Obama, Latinos for Clinton. Bruce Miroff writes of his own book:
It was his (McGovern's) campaign that demonstrated to Democrats how to win in the brand-new electoral game of primaries and caucuses through grassroots organizing and mobilization. This was one feature of the McGovern campaign that was largely stifled after 1972, as the party leaders who took over after McGovern’s defeat turned, out a fear of liberal grassroots activism of the McGovernite stripe, toward wealthy contributors and the political consultants who used their donations for media politics. Yet it has remained a powerful undercurrent in the party, from Jesse Jackson through Paul Wellstone to the contemporary netroots
Barack Obama is running a textbook McGovern campaign. That's not a slam, by the way. My first vote was for George McGovern, and, as I once was honored to tell him to his face, it's still one of the best votes I've ever cast. The remaining question is whether or not Obama, if he wins the nomination, can have more success than McGovern did. The irony of it is that McGovern himself supports Clinton.