Simon: According to several sources, Trippi was afraid that if he went to Iowa, there would be a coup in Burlington and that he would be replaced as campaign manager. That is not Trippi's version of events, needless to say. One reason he says he refused to go to Iowa -- even after Howard Dean asked him to - - was that he was responsible not just for one state, but for all the states that followed. As he told me: "Yeah, I could have gone to Iowa and eked things out. But then we would have been dead." It was a stunning miscalculation. Without Iowa, the Dean campaign was dead. Worrying about what came after Iowa was not worth worrying about. In 2004, it was win Iowa or go home.
The Note: 2. Michael Whouley stressed quality over quantity; experienced precinct captains who could corral 10 voters versus inexperienced volunteers who could promise 20. What did he get about Iowa that the Dean folks didn't?
Simon: It is not so much that the Whouley got it and the Dean folks didn't, it is that Whouley had an experienced cadre -- carefully built by John Norris and Jonathan Epstein -- of local leaders, who were very solid and very experienced and who knew their neighbors. Dean attracted some very committed, very passionate volunteers, but they were new at the game and Iowa is a very complicated game. In the end, the Dean campaign was a house of cards and the Kerry campaign had a very solid footing.
The Note: What are the lessons for 2008?
Simon: For the campaigns, they mainly have to avoid the false lessons of 2004: The "murder-suicide" theory that Dean and Gephardt had the best organizations but lost because of battling negative ads is nonsense. So is the "Iowa is no longer a caucus, but a primary" theory that was hatched to explain why the supposedly lousy campaigns of Kerry and Edwards won. According to this theory, it was because charisma ruled the day. That may have partially explained Edwards, but Kerry? In reality, both Kerry and Edwards had very good below-the-radar-screen campaigns. Edwards did an especially good job of exploiting a quirk in the caucus system -- it is not one person/one vote, but requires fewer votes in rural districts to get delegates than in urban districts -- to go after rural voters.
The Note: Will union endorsements matter that much in the future?
Simon: Only if the rank-and-file are on board with the endorsement and the candidate delivers a compelling message. If Iowa proved anything it proved that union members can be as independent in their thinking and voting as anybody else.
The Note: You reveal that Gov. Vilsack essentially refused to endorse John Kerry because he needed AFSCME's help on an education bill. What does that say about Gov. Vilsack's political courage? His political instincts?
Simon: All politics is local and providing what he considered important help to the schoolchildren of Iowa trumped endorsing a candidate for president. Would he be Kerry's running mate right now if he had endorse him? Hard to say, but I doubt it. As the piece makes clear, Vilsack provided some important help to the Kerry campaign that nobody knew about. And, of course, his wife endorsed Kerry.
The Note: What's the biggest mistake we in the media made covering Howard Dean? Covering Iowa?