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


Put aside message and money, and one realizes that Barack Obama won this thing because his strategists and field team, led by David Plouffe and aided considerably the Hildebrand-Tewes consulting team and a dose of targeting genius from Strategic Telemetry’s Ken Strasma , created a strategy designed to maximize the pledged delegates won based on Obama’s support in each state. The best analytical distillation I have seen of this—and, particularly, of how Obama crushed Hillary Clinton in the caucus states while using the DNC’s proportionality rules to minimize his delegate losses in primary states he lost while maximizing them in the primary states he won—is a piece published yesterday called "How Obama Did It" by somebody named Justin Sizemore , writing for University of Virginia professor Larry Sabato’s “Crystal Ball ‘08” site. It’s a great read--and it has super tables too, for the numbers geeks, like me, who dig that sort of thang. --Tom Schaller


I've long been an advocate of candidates running together as a presidential and vice presidential slate through the primaries, something only I and Chuck Todd in this town seem to think makes sense. (I wrote a piece in 2005 advocating this strategy. He did too but the link is broken.) Anyway, now that Barack Obama has won the nomination, my initial reflex is that he ought to choose quickly—not rashly, of course, just quickly—and build a shadow cabinet of sort outward from there. Today the Obama campaign announced that Caroline Kennedy will join former Clinton Administration aide Eric Holder and Democratic strategist Jim Jordan Johns on the vice presidential search committee. However, I would add one very important qualifier: If Obama is leaning toward picking Hillary Clinton , he ought to wait as long as possible until Denver, whereas if, as I suspect, he's not going to pick her he ought to move much quicker . Here's my water-tight, don't-even-try-arguing-with-me logic: If he is...


A few television commentators remarked last night on the fact that Barack Obama didn't talk much about himself in his St. Paul speech. Oddly, last night was one moment when he would have been given wide berth for self-absorption on the level of, say, what Hillary Clinton delivered. (Go read friend-of-the- Prospect Mike Tomasky's piece in the Guardian today for more on that.) However, Obama did drop two names into his speech last night that, amid all the discussion of his comments about Hillary, were largely overlooked: Bill Clinton . Obama slipped in a nice line during a series of remarks about the meaning of real change by crediting the former president for showing how "fiscal responsibility and shared prosperity can go hand-in-hand, as they did when Bill Clinton was President." I predict that, long after the dust settles, if Obama becomes president he and Bill Clinton will end up being very chummy; Clinton, after all, always liked being where the action is. David Plouffe . It was...


Say what you want about Team Obama’s rough couple of months since the Ohio and Texas primaries, but with the nomination now secure they are signaling very clearly that they intend to fight harder and smarter than John Kerry did four years ago. First, you have Obama going straight into the teeth of his Republican opponents last night by giving his speech in St. Paul, where the Republican National Convention will be held this September. And then, second, he turns and heads to western Virginia to meet tomorrow with those very same white voters from Appalachia who voted for Hillary Clinton and perhaps remain wary of Obama. (For more about Obama's visit, I recommend blogger Patrick Ottenhoff , who runs one of my favorite sites, The Electoral Map ; he has a great post about what western Virginia looks like relative to the rest of the state.) As the general election stage begins, the early signal from Obama is that he is not going to be the conflict-avoidant candidate we saw four years ago--...


Now that Barack Obama has won the Democratic nomination, there will be much talk today and the rest of the campaign season about the historical significance of his victory. And it is historic, no doubt. What I'm about to say is not meant in any way to diminish the significance of his nomination. However, and without wading too deeply into all the complex issues of racial identity, it must be said that Obama is not exactly your average African American politician—and I’m not just referring here to his unique rhetorical skills. What I mean is that his ascendancy also marks an historical departure from African American politics itself. As just a starter list, there are at least five ways that he is different: First, he is half-black and, consequently, light-skinned. Second, his black half is Continental African and more recent in its migration to America, through his father, as compared to slave-descendant and centuries-old in its genealogical origins. Third, he does not come from a...