In Clayton Hall, the heads of two campaigns shared a pitcher of truth serum as well as conversation covering the campaign of last season… David Plouffe, who ran the Obama campaign, sat down in a tan easy chair next to Steve Schmidt, the man who salvaged John McCain’s faltering campaign and made at least a viable run for the office of president of the United States…

There were two surprises… The first was that David, the Democrat, was actually a detailed, district by district, target by target, meticulous type of planner.. Those of us privy to his emails did not seem him as such.. But starting from Iowa through the general campaign, he remained intently focused on how to eventually pull 270 electoral votes out on November 4th.. His real battle was the primary against Hillary Clinton: “We thought that nine times out of ten Hillary Clinton would probably win the primary,” he said. “If we made one big mistake we’d be out of the race.”

The second was the candidness of Steve Schmidt, the Republican, who acknowledged the Republican Party was a long shot from winning. “We were running a campaign under extra difficult circumstances — the state of the Republican Party, the president’s unpopularity, the economy — a lot of issues that were not John McCain’s fault, but were John McCain’s problem in this race,” He used this analogy that will become the historian’s caricature, as they look back over this past campaign…“It was the strategic equivalent of throwing a football through a tire at 50 yards”

The two campaign chairs were joined by two Delaware Students, who write for the Review. Josh Shannon, and Stephanie Krause… The moderator’s position was held by by professor and former CNN world affairs correspondent, Ralph Begleiter, who recognizing the significance of the opportunity, did away with introductions ( “we all know how to use Google“) and jumped directly in with the first question… : “Was there a time when you wanted to say to the opposite teams chairman… what were you thinking?” David responded with “yeah, when they picked Sarah Palin”… a choice that later Steve defended when he said….”

Sen. John McCain passed over his first choice for vice president — Democrat-turned-Independent Joe Lieberman — in favor of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin to avoid an all-out GOP civil war. It was communicated back to us very clearly from within the party that not only was Senator Lieberman not acceptable, but any pro-choice nominee was not acceptable, [and] it would lead to a floor fight at the convention with an alternate nominee for vice president put into play. Blowing up the party wasn’t one of the menu items of things that were going to improve our situation,” he said.

When asked if there was a moment when the outcome was known before the actual election, Steven Schmidt say “Yeah, when Lehman Brothers collapsed in the fall I knew pretty much right away that … from an electoral strategy perspective, the campaign was finished. We were posting 5% in the right direction…. that is when asked if they felt the country was going in either the right or wrong direction, only 5% of the public was saying the right one, a historically low number by the way, no one ever gets negatives that low on that question, but shows the uphill battle that we fought...”

Steve said the Palin plan was to excite the base…”The first night of our convention was President Bush and Vice President Cheney. I literally thought by the second night of our convention we could be down 25 points.” Her pick excited the base, drove up the scores of women, showed McCain to be a maverick. The Republican’s grand plan was to focus on National Security during the month of September, and then drive home their tax policies during the month of October… The Lehman Brothers collapse, and the subsequent collapse of the stock market, immediately shifted the electorate’s focus towards the economy and as we all know, their candidate was on record as admitting he knew very little about the economy….

Steve when describing the impact of the Katie Couric interview, said it was the “most devastating political interview ever “since Roger Mudd interviewed Ted Kennedy who could not answer the question as to why he wanted to become the president…

When asked about the current president’s first hundred days, both chairs dismissed the title as a line drawn in the sand and as nothing to worry over… Steve characterized Obama’s first 100 days as being successful… He called out the Republican counter strategy, by saying the only thing that ever matters is where the mind of the electorate is on election day.. David reiterated by saying the “”I think the scoreboard of how many House Republicans voted for a certain bill is a flawed measure, because the truth is there’s very few House Republicans that worry about the middle of the electorate anymore,” the current president’s campaign manager said: .”We’ve won all there is to win in the House, so these folks are worried about their primaries, and Newt Gingrich is calling all their shots and pulling out the dusty playbook from 1994 and saying, ‘Just oppose the president, and maybe if things don’t go well you’ll profit. The world needs to understand. Republicans in Washington, are different from…. Republicans.

On the Republican Party, Steve went further.. “It is near-extinct in many ways in the Northeast, it is extinct in many ways on the West Coast, and it is endangered in the Mountain West, increasingly endangered in the Southwest . . . and if you look at the state of the party, it is a shrinking entity.”

When asked about the irony that Steve was central to the anti gay-marriage bashing by Bush- Cheney 04, which gave them just enough of an edge to hang on to Ohio and Florida, and this year had recently given an address to the Log Cabin group of gay Republicans, thanking them for what they do, and encouraging them not to give up hope, but to work harder to change the party for the better… Steve spoke with kavipsian wisdom….

“People who are born into their sexuality, should not be disallowed for that, and have one of the basic tenants of the Declaration of Independence withheld from them: their right to pursue happiness. Steve said. “These dividing singular issues are what have hurt the Republicans.. Achieving the concept of the Big Tent theory, is the way to winning…

Steve got a big laugh to this line describing the current climate of his party… “Republican’s abhor a vacuum of leadership… Currently we are in our “Lord of the Flies” period, when there is no leader, and now is the time when the next generation rises… The party is a shrinking entity.. No longer can your winning philosophy be to hold the South, and every 4 years spend 80 million dollars to win Ohio….. Republicans need to be competitive in all races, in all 50 states…

The Democrat David Plouffe acknowledge that the choice of Sarah Palin motivated a lot of new money and volunteers towards the campaign.. When questioned how he was able to mastermind the ground game of volunteers across 50 states, David had surprising information… Due today’s technology, and social networking, many states organized themselves. In fact, paramount to the decision of whether to send paid staffers into various states, was the reality that having a state with a network structure already in place, made adding money and staffers relatively easily… They didn’t have to search out “now who do I talk to”; “who might volunteer”; it was in place before they arrived.

Outside during the reception, he pulled out his mauve colored blackberry and said the whole world has changed because of” this”.. The next campaign has changed, because of “this”. Video, news casts, placed right in your hand, almost the instant that they happen. Picking up on a theme expressed inside, he asked who do we trust? In today’s world we don’t trust the media, or political operatives, talk-show hosts, or the medical profession.. We trust our family members and our neighbors… even if our neighbor is crazy, we trust where he is coming from.. When he steps up and says “You know, I’ve always hated Democrats, maybe voted for a few, certainly would never send them any money, but i like what I’m hearing from this Obama guy” it resonates….So when a family member sends you an email with a video attachment, you tend to accept that piece of information as valid… Our social networks are less face to face and more and more electronic. It matters not that a familiar newscasters face is on TV. What matters is who sent that piece of information, whether that someone was someone we liked or didn’t like, that becomes the emotional seed or basis of how we form an opinion… In four years, the campaign will all be different again.

But the current president’s key to his success, was utilizing this social networking. It’s an organic movement, he said. “The Obama campaign has 4 million donors and the average was 85 dollars per person. Young people played a huge role.. In Iowa, usually the over 60 crowd is twice as large as the under thirty crowd. This time the under 30 crowd was doubled, equalizing or beating out the over 60 crowd. That is unheard of..”.

“We changed the electorate” said David. Steve also acknowledged the youth vote completely changed the playing field. With unblemished admiration for the opposing candidate, Steve linked the campaign run by Obama to that of unfinished one run by Bobby Kennedy, calling him a once in a lifetime candidate…”This was, in my view, the unfinished Bobby Kennedy campaign — the idealism, the passion, the inspiration he gave to people, it was organic and it was real and it wasn’t manufactured at a tactical level in the campaign,

Those of us who study strategy, live for the post battle scenarios when two warriors sit down and discuss for history, the importance of what they did… For those who study politics, this is as good as it gets… Just the nature of the Obama campaign, with its insurgent candidate who took on its preordained appointee in a long primary, then went on to beat the best human being the Republicans could have offered, (if you don’t believe me, revisit his concession speech) is a once in a lifetime event for politicos…. I may never see such in my lifetime…

Surprisingly both went to the University of Delaware… where equally surprising, neither of them graduated. Yesterday before the public session, arrangements were quietly made to take care of that small part of their impressive resumes….

I hope history will realize that despite coming from this tiny state, just how big these guys really are……

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