In Defense of Bob Shrum

Folks in the blogosphere like to claim that they don’t fall for the same superficial analyses that pundits do. Yet in liberal and conservative blogospheres alike a lot of bloggers fall for the same story: Democrat losses can be blamed on that Rasputin of our time, Bob Shrum. Now columnist Mark Shields brings us a column that should give everybody a little perspective here. Now I’m not saying that Shrum didn’t make mistakes while helping to run Gore’s 2000 and Kerry’s 2004 campaigns. But if nothing else Shields blows centrist, pundit, “conventional wisdom” out of the water! Now what could possibly be wrong with that?

First, there’s Shrum’s actual record:

“Like Karl Rove, Bob Shrum has had a lot of success. As his friend and colleague Tad Devine puts it, “Bob’s record speaks for itself.” The Shrum record includes leadership roles in 26 winning U.S. Senate campaigns, in the election of Ehud Barak as prime minister of Israel, in national victories in Bolivia and Colombia, and in the success of Tony Blair’s Labor Party in Great Britain.

“But beyond those marquee triumphs, Bob Shrum has been central to some very important American political successes: the election of Nat Glover, the sheriff of Florida’s Duval County (Jacksonville), Fla., the first African-American sheriff in the state since Reconstruction; the election of David Dinkins, the first African-American mayor of New York City; the election of Pennsylvania’s pro-life Democratic Gov. Bob Casey; the re-elections of Mayors Tom Bradley in Los Angeles and Wilson Goode in Philadelphia.”

Second, losing campaigns can make a difference:

“Remember the thousands of citizens who were hooked on political involvement by the failed national campaigns of Adlai Stevenson, Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan? The words that Bob Shrum wrote for the closing speech of Ted Kennedy’s unsuccessful 1980 presidential campaign sustained Democrats through the 12 years of Republican White House ownership that were about to begin: “For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, the dream shall never die.”

Finally, a little bit of history reveals the distorted, twisted logic on which conventional wisdom rests.

“The journalistic formula for explaining the outcome of American presidential campaigns almost invariably goes like this: The winning manager is tough, canny and probably a genius; the losing candidate’s mistakes were made by a staff that was strife-torn, soft and not ready for the blast-furnace pressure of a national campaign. Under this flawed theory, Hamilton Jordan — who brilliantly managed outsider-longshot Jimmy Carter’s 1976 White House victory — had somehow, four years later, forgotten everything he had ever known when Ronald Reagan defeated Carter.

“If George W. Bush had lost the White House along with the popular vote in 2000, blame would have been placed upon his campaign’s indefensible decision in the week prior to the election to waste a precious day (that could have been better spent in Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota or Florida) and to fly the candidate back and forth across the country for a day of campaigning in California, a state he was destined to lose by 1.4 million votes. That bum scheduling call had been made by Karl Rove, who is now, after the 2004 Bush victory, obviously an established genius.”

To pivot off of Shields I offer up this scenario: A GOP consultant guides a campaign that wins big in the South, picking up 6 seats House seats and 5 (open but formerly Democratic) Senate seats there, while the GOP candidate wins all 168 electoral votes there!

On the other hand… This same campaign (supposedly national in scope) lost one US House seat in the West, Northeast, and Midwest each. He saw the number of Non-southern Republican Senators decline, lost the Non-South electoral college vote 252-118, and the non-southern popular vote 51.1%-47.7%, the best Non-South showing of a Democrat since 1944! A Democrat wins the a greater percent (50%) of the Western popular vote-Ronald Reagan’s home region- than any Democrat since the mid-20th century and only loses the Midwest (formerly the most GOP region of the country) popular vote by less than 3%.

This consultant has lost the national popular vote once and-outside the South- lost it twice (while winning the southern popular vote for the GOP twice). The consultant? You guessed it, our buddy Karl. A man who has shown he can win big-in the region that is already the most conservative region of the country. Can he help Republicans win outside the South? Don’t take my word for it, like Mark Shields you just need to look at the record.

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About Nick

Teacher of Social Studies. Born in the 1970s. History major, music minor. Big Baseball fan. Economic progressive.
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5 Responses to In Defense of Bob Shrum

  1. lothario says:

    As far as Shrum goes he is good at the state, local, and congressional elections but he is inept on the presidential level. Shrum blocked Kerry’s best advisers in 2004 such as Cam Kerry who he stated as being no Robert Kennedy.Shrum also stated Kerry’s senate record as being to complex for the public to understand. That alone proved RS as being campaign poison. Bob is good on TV but as far as presidential campaigns are concern his record speak for itself. He is the kiss of death for presidential prospect imo.

  2. Nick says:


    Still hanging out in DC area? I’m still teaching in PG.

    Sure Shrum made his mistakes (are you sure about the Kerry Senate record too complex? If true that would be reeeaaal dumb). Funny how Shrum does well in the executive position in Britain and Israel-but not the US. IF nothing else it’s clear that however dumb some Shrum moves might be, they are small in comparison to the “method” by which journalists go about deciding someone is a good campaigner.

  3. Nick

    Shrum did advise that Kerry’s Senate record was “too complicated” — also advised against pushing certain aspects of Kerry’s Senate career that had been big — like BCCI and Iran Contra.

  4. Ron Chusid says:

    I’m no expert on winning elections, and I could be wrong, but my gut feeling is that this was a big mistake (per Pamela’s comment).

    By failing to fully define Kerry with the truth, Republicans were left free to define him with their lies.

  5. lothario says:

    Dr Ron,

    You could not have not express my point of view louder if you tried. Shrum let Kerry open tothe label of a do nothing Senator that many voters bought lock stock and barrel. This is why Shrum is campaign poison and never had the respect of many other Kerry staffers during the campaign. Many felt he right or wrong that he was loser he didn’t know what he was talking about.