Transcription – Joe Trippi Interview

Q:              Let me add one to that, which you also mentioned — and that is John McCain’s campaign for the Republican nomination in 2000, where I think he was the first to raise a substantial amount of money — nothing like what you all did, but a substantial amount of money, on the internet.  Is that right?

TRIPPI:       No, yeah —  no, the, the first campaign that — where I saw, you know — we do the phone thing with Jerry Brown, and it’s eight years later, in McCain’s campaign — and I wasn’t involved in the 2000 campaign, but I’m watching it.  And the McCain campaign are doing some really interesting things on the internet.  That have a thing called a website, and people are — and they’re using — and people are contributing to them online.  And I was thinking, you know, this is gonna really be something.  And that — and so, the McCain campaign, actually, also ends up having an influence on the Obama campaign.  I mean, [00:13:00] whether anybody in those — these future campaigns realize that, I doubt it.  I’m not — and no one should take credit.  I’m just saying — that’s not what I’m s– talking about.  But these — you know, peop– “Oh, you know, that campaign lost.”  Most of the campaigns out there are influencing the future politics of the country, whether on issues, like the Dean campaign leading the fight in the Democratic Party against the war… You know, by 2008, it’s one of the critical things that cost — I think, that ends up making Obama win the nomination over Hillary.  Hillary had been for it.  Obama had been against the war.  That impulse within the party, first really engaged by Dean in the 2004 campaign, when you have Kerry, Edwards, and Gephardt all frontrunners before we became the frontrunner.  But those were the three everybody thought were gonna be the nominee. [00:14:00] All three of them had been for the war.  Dean was the only viable — candidate who became viable, who was against the war.  But that organizing that we did — that decentralization, and all those pebbles were still out there — And Obama picked a lot of them up.  And I think that was part of the difference between him and Hillary.  So, you get to — you know, it’s not just the organizing, but where issues are going, and things like that, really can… A losing campaign, in the end, can help the party win, over the long haul.

Q:              The war became the theme of the Dean campaign, but when he first decided to run for president, what motivated him?

TRIPPI:       He was a doctor who, as governor of Vermont, had done a lot of innovative things on healthcare [00:15:00] and was very deeply energized by providing national — moving the country towards a national healthcare answer, solution.  And I think that was the prime reason for his — I mean, that was the impetus behind his initial looking at running, and his desire to run.

Q:              He — I mean, there’s a sense in which he was going with the recent flow, because most of the presidents elected in the years up to him were governors, and there were no other governors in the field.  But he was from a very small state, did not have a… What made him think that he had a shot, or did he think he had a shot (overlapping dialogue; inaudible)?

TRIPPI:       I don’t think he had a shot.  I don’t think — I don’t think that was the — I don’t think it was… I mean, did he understand that it was a long shot?  Yes.  I don’t think there was, like, a, [00:16:00] you know, “I’m gonna get in. I’m gonna become a frontrunner.  I’m gonna…”  You know, “I’m gonna have a shot at the nomination.”  I don’t think that’s — I think he got in because he thought there was an issue like national healthcare that he wanted to push to the fore.  And, hey, you know, “Let’s give it a shot, and let’s see what we can do here.”  But, you know, to be honest with you, I came relatively late into his.  I mean, I was — I joined him well after he had decided to run, so I’m not — when I joined the campaign, or when I first really saw him as a presidential candidate, he was out there talking about healthcare.  Like, all that was his lead comment, that — you know, the — if you listen to any of his stump speeches back then, they all were about it — being a doctor and unders– you know, and the country needed healthcare, and… [00:17:00] And I think, you know, it was for single-payer healthcare, if I remember right.  But I’dhave to go back, and it’s been a while (laughs) unfortunately.

Q:              When did you first either see him and form an impression of him, or meet him, or maybe both?

TRIPPI:       Well, my firm, Trippi McMahon & Squier, had been always doing his races for governor — his television ads and things like that.  I hadn’t really worked on his campaign.  And one of my other partners had done that.  I had been working on John Kitzhaber for governor of Oregon, and, uh, Ron Wyden for senator of Oregon, and other, uh, uh, campaigns out there.  Um, you know, we had three partners, and one worked on this one, and one worked on that one.  And Steve McMahon was the — worked on the Dean campaigns for governor.  So, I really didn’t know him — I mean, I knew him.  I’d see him in our office [00:18:00] every once in a while making phone calls and things.  But I really wasn’t a player in the Dean campaigns for governor at all.  And he — and the last thing I wanted to do after the ’92 — after bailing out of presidential politics post-’88, playing a little bit of a role with Wilder and Brown in ’92, and had successfully stayed out of the ’96 and 2000 campaigns — the last thing on earth I wanted to do was to get tangled up in another presidential campaign.  And so, Steve would call me up all the time, while I was on the road doing a campaign, in probably 2002, 2003, “Hey, H–”  Uh, 2002, “Hey, my guy Howard’s gonna run for president.”  I’d go, “Great, good for him.  (laughter) More power to you.”  And he’d keep calling me up [00:19:00] and saying, “Hey, Howard’s gonna go.”  And I’d keep going like, “Great, good for you.  Good for him.  Wonderful.” And I had no interest at all in doing another one of those things.  They are the greatest experience you’ll ever have in your life, and the worst experience you have ever had in your life.  You get done at the end of them, and you think — say, “Thank God that I had that experience, but please, God, don’t ever let me do that again.” And that’s just the way it is.  That’s — most people do not do more than two or th– you know, that I know of, I’m the only crazy man out there that I know of is — that worked in as many of them as I have.  And I didn’t want to do it.  And they called me up one day and said, “OK, he’s gonna be giving a speech at the winter meeting of the DNC.”  And I was like, “Um, uh…” [00:20:00] And, you know, like, “Joe, all you’ve got to do is just come over and watch the speech.  He’s a client of the firm.  You know, you can come over, watch it, you know, tell — say — you know, tell him what you think, and leave.”  I mean, “You are a guy who’s run Iowa, you know, for Mondale, and won it.  Worked for Dick Gephardt when we — and made the — or came up with the idea for the Hyundai ad that won Iowa for Mon– for Gephardt in ’88.  You know these places.  You’ve been in presidential campaigns.  It — we’ve got a guy running for president.  It would be good for you to show up.”  So, I got in my car and went over there.