Hillary Clinton Owes Iowa Win to Great 'Ground Game,' and the Lessons of 2008

Eight years ago, Hillary Clinton lost the Iowa "ground game," and her presidential aspirations. Not this time. 

Hillary Clinton's campaign organization covering Iowa's 99 counties was said to be one of the best ever, and it got the job done on Monday, propelling the former New York senator to a narrow victory over the insurgent Bernie Sanders: 49.9% of caucus-goers vs. 49.6%.

"Winning in a state where she came in third just eight years is going to be a real boost for her campaign," said Anita Dunn, a Democratic strategist at SKD Knickerbocker. "She had run there before, she had a superior organization for much of the year, and what's important to see is that in a very tough race with a progressive group of voters, she has been able to hold her own."

That so-called "ground game," an integral part of winning any election, but more so in the time-consuming caucuses, was the top reason an overwhelming number of party strategist and activists, 87%, surveyed in a Politico poll, published just prior to the caucuses, predicted that the former secretary of state would take home first prize in the first-in-the-country electoral contest.

Ultimately, it was Clinton's organization, born of many months in the state and ample resources, that combined a large and experienced staff with a media operation that more than matched Sanders surprisingly effective television commercials. 

The Vermont senator, whose message about the root causes of income inequality resonated with much of the state's Democrats, just about kept pace with Clinton's media campaign. In an analysis of political advertising data compiled by the Political TV Ad Archive, the National Journal reported that between Dec. 1 and June 30, Clinton's advertising totaled 5,268 minutes compared to Sanders's 5,011 minutes.

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