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

TWO NAMES DROPPED

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...

TAKING THE FIGHT TO THEM

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--...

AMERICA’S FIRST BLACK* MAJOR-PARTY NOMINEE

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...

FOX NETWORK SCARES BEJEEZUS OUT OF MY NIECES.

I like a good horror movie as much as the next person, and I plan to catch The Strangers --an apparent re-make of the 2006 French film Ils (“Them”), itself supposedly if loosely based on a true story -- which opens today. The theatrical trailer is pretty darn good , and quite scary. And that’s what bothers me: My sister Juli , whose two daughters are eight and four, have been exposed to the trailer during commercials for one of my nieces’ favorite shows, So You Think You Can Dance? I’m generally wary of media censoring, and expect parents to exercise control over the programs their kids watch. But when the commercials interspersed during an otherwise family-friendly program are themselves very child-unfriendly, how can parents exercise such judgments? And what in the hell are the executives at Fox, which broadcasts SYTYCD, thinking? Fortunately for my nieces, my sister DVR’s the show and was able to fast-forward through the commercials. But not all families have DVR capacity, and the...

WESTERN DISCOVERIES

Because both John McCain and Barack Obama have been touring the Interior West, I’m getting a lot of calls this week about regional strategies for the Electoral College and reaching the magical 270 threshold. I’m relieved analysts are finally discovering that, among other things, Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico combined have almost the same number of electors (19) as Ohio (20) and that adding those to John Kerry’s 252 total from 2004 would put Obama over the top, however narrowly. Allow me three quick observations. First, the two most competitive regions during the past two elections are the (Upper) Midwest and the Southwest and we have a contest appropriately fought between a man hailing from the Midwest’s largest city and the Southwest’s largest city for the hearts and minds of voters from those two regions. Second, because the demography of these regions entails a battle for Independents and Hispanics (among others) in the Southwest, and white Catholics and suburban women (among...

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