Thomas Schaller

Thomas F. Schaller is an associate professor of political science at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and author of The Stronghold: How Republicans Captured Congress but Surrendered the White House.

Recent Articles


Though Mike Huckabee is the surprise candidate of the 2008 Republican presidential contest, John McCain is the real wild card. Hoping to use Huckabee as the tip of his spear, McCain came to Des Moines last night for one last stab in Mitt Romney’s back. At an evening press conference in his Urbandale (suburban Des Moines) headquarters last night, McCain again went after the former Massachusetts governor, who McCain needs to finish weakly, ideally second, and stumble into New Hampshire bruised and battered enough for McCain to catch him there. McCain is using foreign policy credentials as a cudgel to batter Romney as unready to lead the party; in this sense, McCain is playing a “ready to lead from day one” card similar to that used by Hillary Clinton to criticize Barack Obama . Just yesterday, the McCain camp released a new foreign policy-themed ad and accompanying statement from Senate colleague and longtime supporter Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. His ad mocks Romney for...


So I may be one of the earliest-rising media folks here in Iowa, waking at 4:40 EST to do some interviews with CBC Radio in Canada. And this is the cover photo that greeted me from today's Des Moines Regi ster. The banner headline read, simply, Now, You Decide. The lead story by the Register's Thomas Beaumont suggests that there will be a surge of new and independent voters, the disproportionate share of them turning out to participate in the Democratic caucuses: If polls and turnout forecasts are accurate, Iowa independents would be following the lead set by their national peers in 2006. Nationwide, independents backed Democrats heavily in the watershed 2006 elections, in part out of a rejection of President Bush and a loud cry for change that has continued into the 2008 campaign, strategists in both parties agree. Recent polls have shown the percentage of Iowa independents planning to participate in the Democratic caucuses is far higher than those who say they will caucus for...


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...


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...


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