If I had to point fingers, I’d point one squarely at former campaign manager Joe Trippi. The guy was over his head and out of his league from day one. As proof of his ineptitude, the best presidential candidate I’ve seen in years, the guy with the most money and best early poll numbers, has failed to take more than 15% of the primary vote. It takes a special kind of incompetence to let that happen….
Until the launch of his campaign in early 2003, Dean was widely considered to be a New Democrat: a fiscally conservative, socially liberal Governor at home within the Third Way movement. Even his healthcare plan was designed to achieve consensus….
Yet, in spite of Dean’s solid mainstream credentials, Trippi choose to run him as an insurgent. Why? Because that was the only kind of campaign Joe Trippi knew how to run, and to a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail….
For all their talk about listening to the “grassroots”, Dean for America was a black hole. In addition to volunteering here in Georgia, I worked on creative projects with other supporters from around the country. The two most common criticisms heard repeatedly from EVERYONE were that DfA was a) very difficult to reach and b) extremely unresponsive. There was no established means of communication even for State group coordinators, let alone the hundreds of creative pros who repeatedly attempted to donate time and expertise to the campaign, much of whose work product was superior to anything coming from TMS [Trippi McMahon & Squier, the media firm that produced Dean’s ads]. Since taking over from Trippi, Roy Neel has tried to open a few channels, but it’s all too little, too late.
…Knowing what I know now, every time I hear Joe Trippi say “this is your campaign”, or “you made this happen”, I want to hurl. Because I know how much better we could have done with capable leadership at the top and a little money at the bottom….
While Internet penetration in the US is around 65%, television penetration is closer to 98%. That’s 4% more than have telephones. Failure to master TV is still an unpardonable sin in politics. For his part, Trippi believed that money would fix everything…. But all the money in the world can’t make up for poorly conceived and sloppily placed TV ads, or for a campaign that is routinely blindsided by news coverage….
Collectively, the media is a big, hungry animal that lurches at the smell of blood. To blame them for airing the very public mistakes of the Dean campaign is somewhat akin to a matador blaming the bull for, you know, trying to hurt him or something…. If you can’t work the beast, then get out of the arena.