Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Political Science


Frances Piven

Committee Members

John Mollenkopf

James Jasper

Subject Categories

Political Science


American Political Parties, Party Organization, Campaigns and Elections


This dissertation traces Democratic Party organization roughly over the Obama era. It conceptualizes the party at the national, state, and local level, with a particular focus on Ohio. This project seeks to reconcile changes in the political environment that incentivize strengthening party structures, with American electoral institutions that complicate party organizational development. I suggest that while demographic change, polarization, and big data are powerful incentives to focus Democratic electoral strategy on an Obama-like organizational model and campaign strategy, institutionalization remains hampered by significant structural impediments. These are institutional as well as coalitional. While party integration has been uneven, I find an evolving and shifting relationship between national, state, and local party organization. Variation in competition and resource levels create disparate intra-party logics. “Battleground” states are marked by ephemeral high resource presidential organization that deeply penetrates the local level in service of turning out a coherent party electorate. Yet such organization tends to be unrooted and unintegrated in local party structures. This is explained by the absence of organizational mechanisms that bridge the diverse and path-dependent campaign practices of these organizations. Struggles to institutionalize such an apparatus beyond the presidential year, contribute to the broader problem of Democratic off-year turnout.

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