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


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


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...