Thomas Schaller

Thomas F. Schaller is an associate professor of political science at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and author of Whistling Past Dixie: How Democrats Can Win Without the South.

Recent Articles

COUNTY COUNTS.

Following up on the post below, the John Edwards campaign brags that its guy has been to all 99 counties—twice, in fact: once this cycle and also in 2004. Apparently, Hillary Clinton has only been in about 60 counties. A Barack Obama staffers says their guy has visited 73 counties, and if Michele Obama is counted the number rises to the high 80s or low 90s. Edwards campaign manager David Bonior told me Wednesday afternoon that he thinks Hillary will pay the price for too much concentration in the central and eastern portions of the state. Some of the missed counties are surely among the least-populous ones, so touching all the bases isn't everything. (Remember Richard Nixon promising to hit all 50 states in 1960, then losing to JFK ?) But, obviously, in a state where the candidate-voter intimacy is so important to many of Iowa’s spoiled caucus-goers, missing their home county could mean losing their support, so while hitting fewer counties may not be worse it’s hard to see how it is...

RACE FOR FIRST IS BATTLE FOR SECONDS.

The late whispers are that Barack Obama’s campaign may benefit from either an announced or unspoken nod from the Joe Biden and/or Bill Richardson campaigns to have their non-threshold caucus-goers move to Obama. We already know that the Dennis Kucinich camp has instructed its supporters to do so. Perhaps this explains the eerie confidence that David Plouffe , Obama national director, was exuding tonight after Obama’s final event, held at the Hoover High School in Des Moines. “[ John Edwards ] is our main challenge for second-choice caucus-goers and Sen. [Hillary] Clinton is a much different area code with second-choicers,” he said, which is not news at this point. But this was a bit more revealing: “All I know is that of the [Bill] Richardson , [Chris] Dodd and [Joe] Biden people we are a very strong second-choice, Edwards we believe a little less so, and Clinton less so.” If Team Obama’s tracking and modeling is accurate, that means Edwards is a very strong second-choice among...

MEHLMAN: HUCK SHOULD FINISH SECOND.

I ran into former Republican National Committee chairman Ken Mehlman today at the Des Moines Marriott. (Believe it or not, he’s here promoting Strong American Schools , a non-partisan education non-profit sponsored by the Gates Foundation, among others.) I asked him what his gut sense of tomorrow’s Republican caucus outcome would be tomorrow, and he pointed out something very simple, obvious yet compelling: the conservative insurgent may do well, even far exceed expectations, but usually finishes second. That is, Ronald Reagan was second to George H.W. Bush in 1980; Pat Roberston was second to Bob Dole in 1988; in 1996, Pat Buchanan finished second to Dole; in 2000, Steve Forbes came in behind winner George W. Bush . By that logic, Mitt Romney holds on to beat Mike Huckabee tonight. --Tom Schaller

WHAT HQ SAYS ABOUT A CAMPAIGN AND CANDIDATE.

So, I spent some time today bouncing around to campaign headquarters with the stated purpose of finding out where the campaigns were recommending reporters go tomorrow night to watch a good example of their candidate’s caucus operation in action. Understandably, helping media find a good caucus site is not a high priority for any of the campaigns; by tomorrow night, good media coverage matters not. I’ll probably pick a suburban site somewhere here in Polk County, perhaps in or near where I attended that Mitt Romney house party yesterday. But the real intent was to sneak a peek at the campaign’s Des Moines statewide headquarters, which is always an interesting window (though such offices are generally devoid of windows) into how the campaigns’ operations look on the eve of the caucuses. The size, space, organization, and staff demeanor is also very revealing of each candidate’s own style and resources. For the three major candidates, all of whom are located within a good 7-iron of each...

BEST IOWA CAMPAIGN T-SHIRT?

Snapped a photo of this campaign t-shirt worn by a John Edwards supporter to a speech the former North Carolina senator gave yesterday on campus at Iowa State University in Ames. Good stuff. --Tom Schaller

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