November 7, 2003


Organization Man: JOE TRIPPI REINVENTS CAMPAIGNING (Noam Scheiber, 11.05.03, New Republic)

Joe Trippi has been called a lot of things during the eight months he has been managing Howard Dean's campaign for president. To rival campaigns, he's an overgrown computer geek, playing around on blogs and chat rooms until all hours of the night. To the most die-hard Dean supporters, he's an almost messianic figure, the man who helped catapult an obscure Vermont governor to the front of the Democratic pack. And, to the press, Trippi is the kind of uninhibited quote machine most reporters drool over--tossing off quips that are part campaign insider, part pundit, and part pure bravado.

There's some truth to all these claims. But Trippi is first and foremost an organizer--a man who has spent much of his career making sure the right number of bodies turn up on Election Day. "That's the way [organizers] think," says Beckel. "They think about moving votes. In his case, where do you find [the votes]? Who are they? Where do they stand? If they're with us, get them; if they're not with us, forget about them. If they're undecided, badger the hell out of them." And for good reason: In the Democratic primaries, where turnout is extremely low, the better-organized campaign almost always wins.

Of course, Dean's rivals realize this as well. Their campaigns are all staffed by seasoned veterans who collectively have been through dozens of primary contests. What these rivals didn't realize at the onset of the 2004 campaign is that the Internet is the ultimate organizing tool. In fact, the reason they're all now staring up at the bottom of Dean's shoes is that no political operative had ever realized it before Joe Trippi came along.

Thus far, all the Dean campaign has shown is that their candidate may be the tallest dwarf and that you can raise a decent amount of money from on-line hardcores. But the inability of Mr. Dean to move his national numbers above a startlingly low and persistent 10% or so, among Democrats, suggests just how limited the on-line strategy may be. By comparison, George W. Bush polled anywhere from 25% to almost 50% in 1999. Mr. Dean seems to be a niche candidate disguised as a strong front-runner because the niche he occupies happens to include the media.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 7, 2003 12:39 PM

Had the 1984 bus incident involved two Republican presidential candidates, Trippi's actions would have been described as an example of "dirty tricks" instead of a clever way to get Mondale's people into the event (or put it this way -- Suppose Karl Rove had done that to John McCain's people in Iowa in 2000. How would that have been reported in the media?)

Posted by: John at November 7, 2003 2:06 PM

Well, the press does like Dean, but are they responsible for his poll numbers in Iowa and NH ?

Dean's the front-runner because he's raised the most money, gets the most buzz, and polls the best in the 'First in the Nation' contests.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at November 10, 2003 10:11 AM