What is your earliest political memory?
JFK’s assassination gave me a whole new appreciation for the importance of the presidency, not only in our country but around the world.
Who is your political hero?
Former South Carolina Governor Carroll Campbell. He gave me my start in politics and showed me how a creative and thoughtful conservative can use the governor’s office to make real improvements in a state.
Who is the Democrat you admire most?
Ray Strother. A thorough professional, a great mentor to many young consultants, and a renaissance man.
What is your best political story from the campaign trail?
I knew some people on the left coast were really liberal, but I got a good taste of just how liberal when conducting a focus group in Seattle. We were discussing attitudes toward various national organizations, and the Boy Scouts of America came up. One woman immediately responded, “oh, you mean the Hitler Youth. they get all dressed up in their brown shirts, marching back and forth, back and forth, back and forth.” Not exactly the reverential attitude toward the Boy Scouts that I grew up with in Ames, Iowa.
What would you be doing professionally if you were not working in politics?
College president. I had a tenured position on a political science faculty and intended to go into college administration. But I decided that political polling would be more fun, more stimulating, and more lucrative. I was right on all three counts.
What is your biggest fear?
As president of AAPC, I have worked with three great Democratic pollsters. My biggest fear is that Mark Mellman, Jeff Pollock, and Dave Beattie switch parties and take away all my business, because these guys are really good. Mellman, Pollock, and Beattie, Inc. Republican polling firm? Naw.
What is your biggest regret?
As is the case with almost all political consultants at one time or another, I once found myself in a campaign where I realized our opponent would be a far better choice than my candidate. It was an extremely uncomfortable revelation, and I resolved that it would never happen again.
What is your most treasured possession?
Not a “possession,” but I treasure most in the world my wonderful, brilliant, and talented daughter Catherine.
What is your greatest accomplishment?
Playing a part in shaping the U.S Senate. When I think of Senators Paul Coverdell, Bill Frist, Strom
Thurmond, Lindsey Graham, Lamar Alexander, Bob Corker, and Marco Rubio, I feel I’ve played a role in helping my country become a better place.
How would you describe yourself in one word?
What is your favorite book?
John Adams by David McCullough. the best biography I’ve ever read, in part because of the evocative letters between John and Abigail.