By Jeff Mason and Eric Johnson
WASHINGTON/CHICAGO (Reuters) - President Barack Obama's first campaign famously left offices open in swing states after 2008 to boost his re-election effort in 2012. So what happens now to all of the infrastructure that helped secure the Democrat two terms in office?
The answer is unclear. Obama's political advisers, in a conference call with reporters on Thursday, said they would be discussing with his supporters how to move forward, but they suggested that potential Democratic candidates in coming elections could not assume the Obama ground apparatus would be automatically at their disposal.
"You just can't transfer this," said David Plouffe, a senior White House adviser who managed Obama's campaign four years ago.
"People are not going to spend hours away from their families and their jobs, contributing financially when it's hard for them to do it unless they believe in the candidate."
Jim Messina, Obama's 2012 campaign manager, said his team would initiate a process with the volunteers who made up the multistate infrastructure that turned out voters for Obama.
"We're going to go through a process with our supporters and have a conversation with them about what they want to do next, and we've always listened to the ground game, listened to our supporters," he said.
"We are going to spend some time learning the lessons from the other night before we start thinking about 2014 or 2016."
The much-heralded ground game is considered one of the keys to Obama's victory on Tuesday. The president won nearly all of the battleground states that both he and Republican rival Mitt Romney contested.
Democrats who are considering running for president in 2016 would be delighted to tap into the lists of names, technology, and know-how that the Obama team amassed, but Plouffe warned that it was not as simple as taking over such assets.
"For candidates who want to try and build a grassroots campaign, it's not going to happen because there is a list or because you have the best technology. That's not how this works," Plouffe said.
"They have to build up that kind of emotional appeal so that people are willing to go out there and spend the time and their resources and provide their talents because they believe in someone and in what you're offering," he said.
"The only reason that all this happened on the ground - whether it was ‘08 or this time...was because they believed in Barack Obama," he said.
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