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 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--...


So last night was New Year’s Eve, and a group of 25 or so media types from Time , Bloomberg and McClatchy (and, later on, our own TAPPED alumn, Garance Franke-Ruta ) were out at 801 Grand, a chop house in downtown Des Moines. Of course, everyone was clicking away, checking their Crackberries for the big news of the New Year: the Des Moines Register poll results which, in case you missed them, are: Democrats Barack Obama , 32%; Hillary Clinton , 25%; John Edwards , 24% Republicans Mike Huckabee , 32%; Mitt Romney , 26%; and the man I think will eventually be the nominee, rising John McCain , at 13%. (McCain also got two key endorsements in New Hampshire this week, but more on that later.) Because of its oversampling of what would be first-time caucus goers, some immediately questioned the results the moment the poll was issued. The emphasis, of course, is on would-be . The DMR's own David Yepsen has his own analysis here , which is worth reading. I had a conversation with the...


Mike Huckabee’s campaign today took a turn from the unconventional to the bizarre. At a noon press conference at the downtown Des Moines Marriott, Mike Huckabee rolled out his new “Enough is Enough” television response ad by announcing that he was not running the ad and had told stations to pull it. Huckabee said the original plan for the press conference was to run the two Mitt Romney “Judgment” negative ads against him and the show his “counterpunch” response. “Hopefully this is an ad you will not see in Iowa,” Huckabee said. The original plan for the press conference, he said, was to show the two Romney “Judgment” attack ads and then show their ad. But about an hour before, he decided to call networks and ask them to pull it. Actually, in a moment of cynicism rarely so transparent, Huckabee did show the ad, which the media then obligingly audio- and videotaped. The campaign also had podium backdrop banner emphasing Huckabee’s “Enough is Enough” slogan, plus five big poster boards...


The conventional wisdom of electoral campaigns is that one can only peak too early. I think Mike Huckabee’s Iowa experience disproves this. Given this year’s absurdly early, January 3 Iowa caucus date, the Huck-a-whirl peaked at what seemed like the optimal moment: Late autumn, after Thanksgiving, early enough to get a lot of national press in the weeks before Christmas but not so early that his press boomlet faded before the action heated up. But Huckabee’s problem is that he has no facility or capacity to channel all this late-phase attention and momentum into the commodities that matter: dollars in the immediate term and voters by Thursday night’s caucuses. His downtown Des Moines operation is so small that, as Time’s Karen Tumulty told me yesterday, the Huckabee team has to share a bathroom with Ron Paul’s staff. The emerging sense among some observers on the ground here in Iowa is that Romney, who led for months and invested tens of millions of dollars in the state, only to fall...


Schaller here: I’ll be covering the Republicans from Iowa this week for the Prospect , with Dana on the Democratic beat. Not to tread on her turf, but from my hotel room here in Des Moines I couldn’t help notice that Hillary Clinton , a few moments ago in a speech she gave in Maquoketa, was touting energy independence and said that those who say Americans can conserve and drive fuel-efficient vehicles forget that “we’re the country that put a man on the moon…that invented the Internet.” Not only is this the basic sentiment expressed by Al Gore at the end of his Inconvenient Truth slide show, but it’s interesting that, of all the great American achievements, Clinton mentioned the moon landing and the Internet. It’s not a coincidence that Gore won Iowa 8 years ago. --Tom Schaller