Transcription – Joe Trippi Interview

Q:              Let me ask you, quickly, about a few things we haven’t mentioned at all.

TRIPPI:       Sure.

Q:              The Sleepless Summer Tour — high point of the Dean campaign.  Anything you want to say about that?

TRIPPI:       The Sleepless Summer Tour was, like — it was, like, just the most amazing thing on the planet, because it was decentralized.  Again, I mean, we just — we would — we said which 10 cities we were going to.  We got on that plane — the 737 — the Grassroots Express.  And we — I mean, I remember, we landed in Boise at the airport, and there — you — there was nothing but people.  This was Boise, Idaho — which, by the way, Howard insisted that we do [01:21:00], because he had this 50-state strategy, that he would do as DNC chairman.  He said all these states that Democrats had avoided, he wasn’t going to do that.  And even though the Boise — the Idaho primary or caucus wouldn’t matter a hill of beans in the nomination, he — I think we went back — I was starting to think he had a girlfriend there or something, (laughter) we went back so many times.  He didn’t, by the way.  That was a joke.  But he — I — it was like we — literally, in the campaign, we would go like, “What is it with Boise, Idaho?”  But we went to Boise.  There was nothing but a sea of people there.  Seattle — it was like fifteen thousand.  Bryant Park in New York… And we had said we’d raise a million dollars by the time we got to Bryant Park.  And we got to New York, and we were like nine hundred and twenty thousand.  And it was like an hour and so before the park — you know, before we were gonna get there.  And it just not look like we were gonna make it.  And [01:22:00] Nick O’Malley, my webmaster, called me up and said, “Hey, there’s a guy on the blog, and he says if Howard will carry a red baseball bat onto the stage — if we promise him he’ll do that, he’ll dip into his pocket and do — and give another 25 bucks right now.  And what’s weird is, all these other people are saying, ‘Yeah, yeah, I’ll do that.  If he’ll carry a red bat onstage, I’ll give him a hundred bucks,’ or, ‘I’ll give him 25 bucks.’  So, I just went like, you know, out of desperation, I said, “Well, put up on the web he’ll be carrying a red bat onstage.”  And, you know, “Tell them, if they get us to a million, he’ll carry a red bat onstage.”  So, they put it up on the web, and all of a sudden, the odometer on the website just started spinning.  People started, from everywhere, giving him enough money — you know, like, money to see the red bat.  Well, now I had the problem — it’s like — I don’t know, it was like 9:30 at night in New York.  The event’s in half an hour, at ten o’clock. [01:23:00] And where are you gonna find a red bat?  I turned to the poor, hapless staffer next to me, and said, “Go find a red bat.”  So, he scurries off.  We were in a deli feeding the press.  We get — load everybody up on the bus.  We get over to Bryant Park.  I look up at the screen, and the thing’s spinning, and hit hits a million.  And just then, Howard — you know, the music starts up, and the guy on — you know, the voice of God says, “Ladies and gentlemen, the next president of the United States, Howard Dean.”  And Howard starts to the stage, and I’m thinking, “Oh, my gosh.  He didn’t — he doesn’t have the red bat.”  I mean, he doesn’t — he didn’t know yet about any of this.  And just then, out of my peripheral vision, I see this kid running with everything he’s got, with this red bat in his hands.  (laughter) And just as Howard hits the top of the stage, he throws it up to him.  Howard catches it, and goes up there, and the place goes crazy.  And it was just, like, [01:24:00] you couldn’t script a tour like that any better than it all went.  It was like, probably, the single most amazing… I’d say winning Iowa with Mondale was — and Pennsylvania with Mondale, were the only things I would — I could compare to the Sleepless Summer Tour.

Q:              The Gore endorsement — how did that come about, and did it get you what you hoped?

TRIPPI:       No, not what I hoped.  (laughs) I mean, I had zero to do with the Gore endorsement.  And had I had anything to do with it, I would have — I would have never done it when it happened.  They — the two of them had, essentially, kept it [01:25:00] a state secret.  They did not want it to leak.  I’m talking about Gore and Howard.  And so, there were very, very few people who had any inkling.  I knew they were talking and that kind of stuff, but there were very few people who — like, maybe three on the planet — and I’m taking, they’re two of them.  So, there’s not that… I’m sure Roy Neel, Gore’s chief of staff.  I mean, there — but very, very few — maybe Kate O’Connor, the governor’s chief of staff.  But it was like a state secret, and they were not gonna let — they were not gonna — no one was gonna know until they were doing it.  And so, you don’t have — I don’t think there was a whole lot of political thought put in it — I mean, strategic thought.  It was just about — it was like — more things like, “Where are you gonna be on what day?”  “Oh, I’m gonna be in New York that day.” [01:26:00] “I’ll be — I’m gonna be in New York that day.”  “Great, well then, we’re both there.  That would be a — we can do it.”  And that’s literally how the day — the timing happened.  I think, had we announced that seven days before Iowa instead of whatever it was — six weeks or four weeks before Iowa… I think that moment put the target — I mean, that was the — when all the other campaigns decided, “Kill him now.”  And I think — and we got this huge lift in the national polls, and in Iowa, and in New Hampshire.  So, had — from a strategic point of view — I’m not talking about… But, from a strategic point of view, I would have done it, like, seven days, six days before Iowa.  You — boom, the campaigns have got maybe four days to panic and freak out and try to kill you.  And, by the way, you’re gonna be in that euphoria thing in the Democratic primary, where everybody goes like, “Wow, you got Gore.”  What happened was, you get the benefits of the Gore thing, then people sort of forget about it and start — [01:27:00] it’s on the backburner.  Meanwhile, your opponents decide, “Kill him now.” Gephardt bear hug — he pulls the pin out of the grenade and hugs you.  And I’ve been in that situation.  I mean, it — I’ve been in campaigns — not in a presidential, but I’ve been in campaigns where I felt — you know, where the candidate — you — in a multicandidate race, where you’ve worked your heart out, and you realize that’s the guy that took you out.  And I’ve basic– I’d mostly look at it like you’re at the s– on the 16th — on the roof of a sixteen-story building, and the guy is shoving you off the building, grab him and take him with you.  And that’s sort of what Gephardt did.  I mean, that’s not — that’s what happens in a multicandidate race.  That can happen.  It’s a — you know, that’s — that wouldn’t have been enough to take us out without some of our own mistakes, and [01:28:00] the rest of the candidates, and the 16 phone calls to our people that, you know — that pounded away on them in a way that made them, you know, hate the campaign that they were gonna support.  And not — a lot of them saw th– you know, went anyway.  But I’m saying — but, you know, did that cost 5,000?  I don’t know — how many votes did that cost us?  Did it cost us anything?  Is it just my excuse?  Well, I’ll never know that.  But that’s what — how it all happened.