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

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...

What Ever Happened to Moderate Republicans?

With the hard right dominating their party, two groups have formed to recenter the Republicans. But even in their old habitats -- Wall Street and the media -- they're struggling to be noticed.

Rep. Jim Ramstad's (R-Minn.) career provides a useful prism through which to view the Republican's disappearing moderate wing. He announced in September that he will not be seeking re-election in 2008. (AP Photo/Nick Wass, File)
When Minnesota's Jim Ramstad was first elected to Congress in 1990, the Republican Party was approaching a critical juncture. President George H. W. Bush, a mainline Protestant and former abortion-rights supporter who had just appointed moderate David Souter to the Supreme Court, was riding strong popular approval in the wake of the Gulf War. But the Souter appointment, coupled with Bush's broken pledge to not raise taxes, awakened a conservative movement that had become powerful enough to make or break Republican presidents. Bush tried to appease conservatives with his 1991 selection of Clarence Thomas for the high court, but it was too little too late: He had become an apostate. Ramstad, the moderate rookie, held on to his seat in 1992. Bush did not. Over the next dozen years, Ramstad would witness the sometimes rapid, occasionally stalled, but always rightward shift of his party. The maverick's image he nurtured with frequent votes against his party was cemented when, after being...

Will the GOP Make a Statement?

Why rank-and-file Republicans might opt to send a protest message by throwing the '08 fight with a statement candidate.

At this month's presidential debate in the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, the Republican presidential hopefuls struggled like 10 puppies trying to climb out of a box to prove who among them is the next Reagan. In future debates, or when they are campaigning individually, expect to hear each of the GOP candidates continue to assert that he is the one, true heir. Of course, none are. With the exception of Congressman Ron Paul of Texas, and possibly former Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson, the seven second-tier candidates are generally more conservative if not more reactionary than Reagan. The deeper problem for the Republicans, as everyone on stage and viewing audiences well know, is that the troika of major candidates -- former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, Arizona Senator John McCain, and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney -- are perceived, fairly or not, as too liberal to stake any legitimate claim to the Gipper's legacy. So allow me to dispatch with all the "it's way...

Gettysburg, Again

The revolution is over. After 12 years of GOP control of both chambers of Congress and a majority of American governors' offices, the Republican era has finally imploded. And while it was accelerated by self-inflicted wounds from bribery and a child-predation scandal, the Republican demise was chiefly caused by a congenital self-denial about the growing disconnect between the party's pursuit of power and the inability to deliver on its promises. Simply put, the GOP could no longer sustain a majority that elevated public relations over policy performance, mantra over management. Despite their defeat, Republicans will attempt to fashion a sort of "pre-visionist" history of why their reign ended. The same folks who are all too happy to brag about mandates that exceed the actual winning margins -- or in Bush's case six years ago, a negative margin -- have both the media means and ideological motive to re-cast their defeat as if it were an indirect validation of their ideas and policies...