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


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


My lord, was Joe Biden ever so right about Rudy Giuliani's "subject, verb, 9/11" crutch. Here's Da Mayor on the Benazir Bhutto assassination: "The assassination of Benazir Bhutto is a tragic event for Pakistan and for democracy in Pakistan. Her murderers must be brought to justice and Pakistan must continue the path back to democracy and the rule of law. Her death is a reminder that terrorism anywhere--whether in New York, London, Tel-Aviv or Rawalpindi--is an enemy of freedom. We must redouble our efforts to win the Terrorists' War on Us." Translation: "Bhutto's assassination is hard to distinguish from September 11 which, as many of you recall, is the only reason anybody outside of New York City or the mob has ever heard of me and my amazing heroics that day." Yeesh. --Tom Schaller

The State of the Field-Ops War

Two weeks out from Iowa--who has people on the ground, and the strategy to organize them?

He's baaaack. Though his role is unclear -- paid or unpaid, advising or taking over? -- news that legendary Democratic field wizard Michael Whouley, the man who engineered Al Gore's national popular vote win and John Kerry’s 2004 Iowa victory, has joined the Clinton campaign's field effort sent a ripple through the world of people who make it their business to win campaigns where they matter most: on the ground. One report said Whouley was recently "conscripted" to bolster the Clinton team for the home stretch in Iowa. After a choppy start a year ago, Clinton's campaign has solidified its Iowa ground game, supervised by formidable veteran organizer Teresa Vilmain and supplemented by the efforts of JoDee Winterhoff, two native Iowans who know the state well and who benefited recently from reinforcements. "Clinton nearly doubled the size of her late-out-of-the-gate field operation in Iowa, adding about 100 new people, though she still has not caught up with the forces that Obama has had...


I recently spoke with a political friend -- somebody close enough to Mike Bloomberg's team to know -- who suggested that Hizzoner would be most likely to jump into the presidential contest if the Democrats nominate Hillary Clinton and the Republicans tap Mike Huckabee . The thinking goes that her built-in negatives and his problems with the establishment wing of the GOP provide the best possible combination for dual defections from each side. A little of a year ago, writing for the New Republic , then- New York Daily News and now Politico reporter Ben Smith reported (the piece is no longer available at that Bloomberg deputy mayor Kevin Sheekey viewed Bloomberg as "the antidote if the candidate with the most appeal across party lines ( McCain ) has been taken out by the conservative wing of his own party and the Democrats nominate a certain someone with a well-known electability problem." Sheekey added: "If John McCain gets beaten to the right -- which is possible in a...