The Command Post
2004 US Presidential Election
January 16, 2004
Kerry | John Kerry's Secret Weapon: Michael Whouley

Per the New Republic and RealClearPolitics :

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But there might be another, more hidden story--a secret weapon Kerry unleashed in Iowa several weeks ago. His name is Michael Whouley.

Michael who? Unless you're a hard-core political junkie, you've probably never even heard the name. But within the Democratic political world, Whouley is an almost-mythical figure. Revered as one of the party's fiercest and most talented ground-level organizers, Whouley is widely credited with saving Al Gore's foundering campaign in Iowa and New Hampshire in the 2000 primaries against Bill Bradley. Now this old Kerry ally may be working his magic one more time.

Whouley often seems like a kind of Keyser Soze figure--his fearsome powers are the stuff of legend, but the man himself is rarely seen. Unlike other top campaign operatives, Whouley shuns attention. He avoids shows like "Hardball" and "Crossfire," and you can't find a picture of him on the Web. Whouley is so secretive that in 2000 he wouldn't even walk in front of a C-SPAN camera so his mother-in-law could see him on television. On the phone, Whouley sounds like a 300-pound truck driver--he has a grumbly, profane voice, heavily inflected with the accent he acquired growing up in Boston's working-class Dorchester neighborhood. (In fact, he is short, "balding," and "whip thin," according to The New York Times.) Whouley also hates to be written about. Gore's former campaign manager, Donna Brazile, confided to me yesterday that she'd just gotten off the phone with Whouley. He'd told her "to stop bragging about him" to reporters.

But Whouley's track record makes him hard to ignore. Numerous veterans of the 2000 Gore campaign, including Gore himself, give Whouley vast credit for saving Gore's hide from Bill Bradley's primary challenge that year. At the time, Whouley was a fortyish ground operative who had been field director for Bill Clinton's 1992 campaign and, briefly, patronage chief in the White House. He was first dispatched to New Hampshire after a poll showing Bradley with a lead in New Hampshire rocked the complacent Gore campaign. Whouley quickly identified the problem: Gore had been too regal and distant from the voters. He ended Gore's endless endorsement events and forced him to bang on more doors and make himself accessible through long town-hall meetings with undecided voters. They proved highly popular and crucially humanized the stiff vice president.

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Michael Whouley was smack in the middle of the Bush-Gore drama that unfolded on election night in November 2000, per the Washington Post's story from that time:

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After Gore made the call to Bush – brief, gracious, to the point – the candidate and his wife climbed into a limousine for the motorcade to the War Memorial, where a large but subdued crowd stood waiting in the pouring rain.

In the boiler room, the cramped space at campaign headquarters nearby where the Gore field operations were based, Michael Whouley, who had pushed Gore to make a fight in Florida and focused on it with single-minded purpose, was shouting urgently across a phone line to his lieutenants in the state. None of them had any idea why the networks were saying Bush had won Florida. The race was too close to call, they insisted.

Whouley sent an urgent page to Gore aide Michael Feldman in the motorcade. When Feldman called back, he patched in Daley, who crouched low in his seat with his head in his hands, straining to hear. "What's up, Mike?" he asked.

"This thing's going to automatic recount."

"Oh, [expletive]," Daley said.

He listened as Whouley spelled out the details – the ever-shifting numbers, the tight margin. The motorcade was now pulling into a basement garage near the rally site. Daley said he would call back.

"Don't let him go out. Grab him!" Daley barked when he reached the garage a few moments behind Gore. The candidate stayed put.

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Posted by nikita demosthenes at January 16, 2004 12:30 PM | TrackBack

I have a question. I may be mistaken but how many years ago was it that JOHN KERRY was defending himself over the MURDERS OF INNOCENT BABIES AND CHILDREN AND WOMEN IN VIET NAM? Or am i mistaken about who that was? If that was him he sure has an i don’t care about this now. I know that if that were me i don’t believe i could act as if i could have cared, like Kerry does now.

Posted by: ALAN RAHN at February 13, 2004 07:41 PM

And how long ago was it that the GOP hammering away at Clinton for his draft dodging? And how long ago was it that the GOP was hammering away at candidates who have a past history of drug abuse? And how long ago was it that the GOP was hammering away at the issue of infidelity by top elected officials?

Let’s see: GW was pretty good at dodging the draft, he abused drugs, and of course we have Newt Gingrich who had a long time affair with and aide. Crooked finger pointing? I think SO!

Posted by: Ty at March 18, 2004 04:24 PM

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