Roger Simon, the perceptive, brilliant, hard-charging political editor of U.S. News (and author of one of the best daily political columns in history) spent several months interviewing the key players in Iowa, sat down with the not-so-key players, reviewed documents and even managed to survive 45 F-bombs from Michael Whouley. What survives is the best, bar-none explanation for what happened in Iowa -- why Dean died and why Kerry rose -- that's been published so far. The bar is set really high for followers.
It all appears in the upcoming issue of U.S. News and World Report.
First, some of the juicy bits from his piece. Then, an interview. Enjoy! We surely did.
"Depending on bogus or incompetent counts of Dean supporters gathered by enthusiastic but inexperienced campaign workers, wracked by deep conflicts within the Dean senior staff, lacking coordination between state headquarters in Des Moines and national headquarters in Burlington, Vt., and with a relationship between campaign manager and candidate that was largely dysfunctional, the Dean campaign devoted much of its time to presenting a supremely confident and largely false face to the media."
"Michael Whouley is a master of the use and psychology of the robo-call."
"'In our focus groups in Iowa,' said Mike Ford, a senior aide in the Dean campaign, 'people said, 'I'll do anything to have Dean stop calling me.'"
"While Kerry's campaign emphasized discipline, training and structure, the Dean campaign was imbued with a philosophy that opposed all three. The Dean campaign was an insurgency, an outsider's campaign, that ran in opposition to the normal political system."
"'We lowballed to the very end,' Whouley said proudly. 'We had a simple strategy: We put one foot in front of the other.' Whouley believes the foundation of any statewide campaign is to build a strong network of precinct captains who know their communities and know their neighbors and are extremely disciplined in the counting of Ones and Twos."
"So naturally, when Trippi came back from Iowa with dire mutterings on how 'soft' things seemed there (though he told virtually one that he wanted to abandon the state) others in the campaign suggested he go out to Iowa to solve the problem. What could be more logical? But Trippi refused."
"McMahon, as a friend and partner to Trippi, begged him to reconsider. He knew Trippi well, and he knew Trippi's insecurities. He knew Trippi was afraid that if he left Burlington, there would be a coup and he would be replaced as campaign manager. So McMahon made a startling offer: Everybody would go to Iowa! Every senior staff member who could possibly lead a coup against Trippi would go to Iowa with Trippi. So there would be nothing and no one for Trippi to be afraid of. Still, Trippi refused."
"McMahon immediately felt the pressure. Dean and others reminded McMahon that he had urged the hiring of Trippi in part because of Trippi's Iowa expertise and they didn't understand why Trippi wouldn't go to Iowa. McMahon admitted defeat. So Howard Dean, himself, asked Trippi to go to Iowa. In most campaigns, this would have been a request that could not be refused. Trippi refused."
The Note: 1. Why was Joe Trippi so opposed to returning to Iowa?