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


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...


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


Attended one of several Mitt Romney bowl day house parties he scheduled today in the homes of suburban Des Moines supporters. The event was held in the nicely furnished basement of the Pleasant Hill (east Des Moines) golf community home of Peggy Richardson . With the USC-Illinois Rose Bowl matchup just kicking off on the flat screen television behind him, Romney, with his youngest son, Craig, in tow, gave a brief little speech reiterating his “strength” themes. “I want to strengthen our military…our economy…and finally I want to strengthen our families,” he said. Though Romney promised to fight “radical violent jihad” in every corner of the globe (comparing it to cancer cells that must be eradicated completely), he never mentioned Iraq, for some of the beleaguered Republicans in the audience was a major sticking point for them. Christine Stefani , a 41-year-old administrator for John Deere and sister-in-law of the hostess, considers herself a Republican who is becoming “more...


I also caught John Edwards’ speech on the Iowa State campus, and it was his standard, populist stuff. But since he and his wife, Elizabeth , and campaign manager David Bonior were all there, and Edwards did a quick press avail afterwards, I figured I would ask all three what, exactly, the Edwards’ campaign’s strategy was for turning his latent advantage as the most common second-choice preference of potential caucus goers into a victory Thursday. When I asked Edwards what would move the second-choicers into his column, he said: “I think I’m the strongest candidate for second choice among caucus-goers, and I think one of the reasons is this very personal, passionate message of ending corporate greed and standing up for their children and their grandchildren—period. I think that’s what they’re responding to. I had people come up to me after this event today and say they came here for Sen. Clinton or Sen. Obama and now they’re for me. They just have to hear [my message], and if they hear...


I know I’m supposed to be following the Republicans, but there were two events so close together in Ames this morning, one with Hillary Clinton and the other with John Edwards , I couldn’t help myself. First, quickly, on Clinton, with a post to follow on Edwards: She was in pretty good form, but I always feel like I can hear the lyrics but never the music. She is so detailed, so wonky, so focused, so fact-based. She covers a virtual policy laundry list of items, from Iran and Iraq, to home health care to mental health coverage to opposition to social security privatization. She’s getting very good at hanging these policies on a human story hook, like when she talks about the costs of home health care. Surely there is a need for that level of seriousness and rigor in the country right now; and it should be noted that she was actually quite funny during a couple moments, particularly when there were some audio-technical snafus. But her core message is basically the same: I am a worker--...