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


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


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...