My favorite political aggregation site, Taegan Goddard’s Political Wire, has been running a series of podcasts consisting of interviews with smart, candid, insightful political actors and observers. They are sooo much better than anything you’ll hear on the Sunday morning TV talk shows.
Tuesday up popped Joe Trippi as the interviewee. Trippi is best (and worst) remembered as the manager of former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean’s 2004 presidential campaign. “Best” because Trippi was the strategist behind Dean’s astonishing surge from asterisk to front-runner for the Democratic nomination in 2004. “Worst” because after taking a huge lead in all polls, Dean crashed before he could even win the Iowa caucuses. (I was in Iowa for the last days of that astonishing collapse. And by the way, he didn’t collapse because he screamed. The so-called scream occurred after the collapse.)
But Trippi has actually been involved in almost every presidential race since he worked for Minnesota’s own Walter Mondale in 1984. And in his conversation with Political Wire interviewer Chris Riback, Trippi gave blunt and incisive insights.
The podcast is 40 minutes long. If you want to listen for yourself, it’s available here. I’ll just mention a couple of points he made.
Trippi was free-wheeling with predictions about this year’s election and the presidential election to follow. It went something like this:
- The Republicans will have a very good 2014 midterm for two reasons. No. 1: It’s a midterm, and turnout is always (way) lower for midterms and Repubs always benefit from low turnout. No. 2: The party of a president in his second term always has a bad midterm.
- But the Repubs will over-interpret their good 2014 to mean that they have overcome the party’s current fundamental problem, which is that there is not a Republican on the scene who can satisfy both the far-right Tea Party/Libertarian wing and the center-right main street, big business wing. But in 2016, when the party has to unite behind one candidate for president, it will turn out that that problem is still around and will once again undermine the Republican hopes of winning the White House.
Trippi also said something that is outside the conventional, namely that he can’t imagine the Republican and Democratic parties can maintain for much longer the absolute duopoly on power that they have sustained pretty much since the Repubs emerged in the mid-19th century. During the brief but intense period when Howard Dean was soaring, Trippi’s mastery of the Web and social media was often cited as one of the key factors. Now everyone relies on those new media, but to Trippi they represent the means by which someone from outside the duopoly will break through.
Trippi said (and I agree) that there’s no way Hillary Clinton will waltz to the nomination in 2016 without a serious fight from someone. It never happens. In fact, he brought up Mondale’s 1984 run as the proof. There never was a stronger consensus front-runner for a nomination in recent history, he said, but Mondale almost lost the nomination to Sen. Gary Hart that year.