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Remember Joe Trippi? He has several insightful political predictions

REUTERS/Jason Reed
Joe Trippi and former Gov. Howard Dean shown in a photo from 2003.

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.

Comments (13)

  1. Submitted by RB Holbrook on 01/08/2014 - 09:39 am.

    Outside the duopoly

    I don’t think breaking up the duopoly is a bad thing. I’m just not certain that it will happen. Third-party efforts seem to be focused on running for major offices, and often seem to be born of vanity, rather than any serious policy goals. Running for President may get media attention, and winning the Governor’s office may make a splash, but that doesn’t mean anything concrete has been accomplished.

    A new party or parties will have the most effect by starting small, running candidates in local elections. This strategy not only builds a base of support, it gives elected officials some actual policy chops. It will also let them see that the decisions they make have real effects on people. School board elections or county commissions don’t garner headlines, but it’s where things start.

    A new party also needs to do more than say “We’re neither Democrats, nor Republicans.” Don’t go the way of the Independence Party.

  2. Submitted by Dan Hintz on 01/08/2014 - 10:51 am.

    Smart, candid, insightful?

    Not sure while they were talking to Joe Trippi then. While this guy has made millions working for presidential campaigns, what is notably absent from his resume is work for anyone who has actually been elected president. This guy has backed so manu losers and been wrong so often, it is amazing that people continue to listen to him, much less pay him for his bad advice. There should be a picture of Joe Trippi next to the word. “Hack” in the dictionary.

  3. Submitted by Pat Igo on 01/08/2014 - 12:55 pm.


    is now a paid consultant for FOX NEWS

    • Submitted by Dan Hintz on 01/08/2014 - 01:38 pm.


      That is something that would have been extremely relevant to this piece. Eric, you have been doing some really sloppy third-rate journalism recently.

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 01/08/2014 - 03:06 pm.

      Or at least

      is a commentator on Fox.
      He’s a hired gun who also currently consults for the Democratic party.

  4. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 01/08/2014 - 01:20 pm.

    Starting out a new party with a national candidate necessarily means that the candidate must possess as high or higher national media profile than the R & D party candidates.

    Trump Party, anyone?

    And the flaw with that is the party is too strongly identified with that one person.

    Remember Ross Perot?

    And it must spend tremendous sums to build credibility, typically self-financed, leading to delusions as to popularity and policies.

    President Bloomberg?

  5. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 01/08/2014 - 02:22 pm.

    What I’m reading

    …in the scenarios described by Messrs. Holbrook and Rovick sounds to me very much like the prescription followed so far by the increasingly-amorphous “Tea Party.” With lots of financial backing from a few deep-pocketed trolls, they’ve accumulated a lot of grass-roots credibility without ever devising a coherent national program beyond “smaller government,” a theme that simply doesn’t fly with the general public.

    I might be OK with the demise of the duopoly myself. As a certified old person, I remember scoffing at Alabama’s George Wallace complaining that there wasn’t “…a dime’s worth of difference” between Republicans and Democrats, only to find, decades later, that he was simply too early in that judgment. Both parties, Repubs more than Dems, but both to some degree, at least at the national and state levels, seem in thrall to a delusional faith in our own mythology, heavily assisted by piles of money so large I have a hard time imagining them.

    No one gives a candidate a quarter million or so in campaign money and expects, literally, nothing in return.

    Tea Partiers generally know not whereof they speak in terms of policies, but their frustration and anger at a dysfunctional and obviously corrupt national government is not difficult to understand, and even sympathize with. More and more, Washington strikes me personally as “the Imperial City,” and a visit there a couple years ago had the vibe of a visit to Oz, except I had no Dorothy, nor was I able to peer behind the curtain. Had I been able to, I suspect I would not have liked what I saw.

    We’ve not had a genuinely new political party since the Dems created themselves in the 1850s. That’s a long time, and while there have been attempts every generation or so to dislodge the current occupants, I’m not going to hold my breath waiting for it to happen, even if a part of me would *like* it to happen. Political upheaval always brings negative consequences for a while, and those consequences usually fall on the shoulders of those least able to deal with them without injury.

  6. Submitted by jason myron on 01/08/2014 - 04:53 pm.

    I see no 2010 style wave for Republicans…

    No way that the Dems take the House, but I see them retaining the Senate. The really interesting races will be in the states where Republicans took over the Governors mansion in 2010. The outcome in Wisconsin, Florida, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania & Maine will be a barometer of which way the country is heading leading into 2016.

  7. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 01/08/2014 - 10:30 pm.

    If you’ll remember 2008

    Mrs. Bill Clinton was her party’s presumptive favorite as the pundits were calling it a coronation instead of a nomination.

    But then along came Joe Biden’s observation that Barack Obama was a worthy candidate because he was “clean and articulate” while Harry Reid agreed and complimented Obama as “light-skinned and with no negro dialect.” That left poor Hillary crying in the New Hampshire coffee shop as the party’s fundamental principles shifted to running as the party of the first black president versus the party of the first woman president.

    In 2010, outraged at the passage of Obamacare, the people rose up and gave the republicans 63 more seats in the House of Representatives, recapturing the majority and making it the largest turnover since 1948. The republicans also gained six seats in the Senate.

    Given all that’s happened in the past two years, I expect the republicans will regain control of the senate by promising to rip out Obamacare by root and branch and returning health insurance regulations back to the states, enabling the purchase of policies across state lines, and the full tax deduction of all health care and insurance expenses, including premiums.

    • Submitted by jason myron on 01/09/2014 - 06:23 am.

      Considering your track record of prognostication…

      I don’t think the Democratic party has much to worry about. And your 2010 victory was by and large with razor thin margins. Considering the amount of damage that sweep has done to the country, and the amount of crazy it unleashed, I wouldn’t get to smug in thinking you’ll revisit a turnover like that anytime soon.

      • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 01/09/2014 - 01:23 pm.


        When you look at the total votes for Democrats and Republicans, it was more a victory for gerrymandering than for Republicans.
        If you want, it was a victory for corrupt statehouse Republicans.

  8. Submitted by Joe Trippi on 01/09/2014 - 09:58 am.

    Thanks for writing up the interview Eric

    Glad you found it interesting. 2014 and 2016 promise to be more of the roller coaster ride we have seen over the 2010 and 2012 elections.

    • Submitted by Dan Hintz on 01/15/2014 - 10:16 am.


      The one election you did win was Goodluck Jonathan in Nigeria, who just signed an extreme anti-gay law which has made it open season on gays and lesbians in that country. Nice work, Trippi. As long as they pay you, its ok, right?

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