Even Rudy wasn't buying it.
Back on Jan. 5, I was part of the press gaggle that surrounded former New York Mayor (and then-presidential candidate) Rudy Giuliani after his brief, bizarre appearance at the kickoff of the
California, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Illinois. Asked why he thought losing six straight primaries would make him look like anything but a loser, though, Giuliani was stumped. "Mike DuHaime understands much better than I do," he stuttered, referring to his campaign director. "He can do it with charts."
I mention this now because the man behind Giuliani's disastrous plan is back. According to the Politico, DuHaime has risen from the ashes of electoral embarrassment to accept a slot on John McCain's presidential campaign, where he'll serve as political director and deputy campaign manager. "His latest post reflects the move by new McCain chief Steve Schmidt, installed last week, to run a more traditional campaign with authority centralized in their Arlington headquarters," wrote Jonathan Martin. Given DuHaime's record on the national stage, the response from Obama supporters was predictably triumphant. "Oh no!!!" quipped one commenter. "McCain hires Giuliani's campaign manager!! I bet Obama is quaking in his boots." But a closer look at the 34-year-old operative's resume suggests that Team Obama shouldn't be quite so sanguine.
On the Giuliani campaign, DuHaime was in charge of everything: messaging, strategy, get-out-the-vote, etc. But McCain will keep him wisely focused on field operations--an area where the Republican's efforts so far have been, well, nonexistent. With a four-month head start on Obama, McCain had a golden opportunity to build early organizing advantages in key swing states. Instead, he created a rudderless regional infrastructure that did nothing on the ground--even though the well-oiled RNC machine was ready to roll in March. “I think [campaign manager] Rick Davis and his team did not have an understanding of how the grass-roots, organizational part of the party works," a swing state Republican Party chairman told Politico earlier this month. "They did not use what the [Republican National Committee] had done, or how groups like the [National Rifle Association] could have helped the McCain campaign locally."
Which is where DuHaime comes in. In 2004, he served as George W. Bush's regional political director, developing (alongside former RNC chairman Ken Mehlman) the groundbreaking microtargeted GOTV operation responsible for boosting his boss to victory). Two years later, he oversaw the RNC's field ops himself, and before the McCain hire he was advising the RNC's Victory wing, which is also responsible for on-the-ground organizing. As a result, DuHaime has connections in every state. He understands how large organizations work. And he has experience energizing grassroots activists. As McCain's political director--he replaces the listless regional chiefs--DuHaime will likely rely on his RNC contacts to better integrate the the party and the campaign as he works to impose some sort of structure on the nominee's disorganized field operations. In other words, DuHaime represents another belated--but necessary--step on the path to professionalizing what has been a distressingly scattershot campaign. What he's good at is exactly what McCain needs.
Does this mean that McCain will out-organize Obama, who has already dispatched paid staffers and an army of 3,600 organizing fellows to all 50 states? Um, no. That said, when it comes to getting out the vote, something is much, much better than nothing. Until now, the senator has effectively been "skipping" Iowa, New Hampshire, Michigan, Nevada and other must-win states--much like Rudy. Ironically, it's going to take the guy behind Giuliani's disastrous strategy to help finally put McCain in play.