By Paul Bedard, Washington Whispers
White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and his political team are busy pushing President Obama's agenda and building a legacy to run for re-election. And now a former Bushie is offering up some free advice that could make the 2012 election a whole lot easier for Obama. When you get a chance, says former George W. Bush pollster Matthew Dowd, go mine presidential libraries for cheat sheets on how predecessors ran their re-election campaigns. "One of the things we were concerned about is the difference in running a re-election when you hold the White House—when you are a president running for re-election—as opposed to somebody coming in," Dowd tells our Suzi Parker. Speaking recently at the Clinton School of Public Service in Little Rock, Ark., he revealed that the idea to see how other presidents handled re-elections came from Bush Chief of Staff Andy Card and political adviser Karl Rove. "They didn't want anybody to know about this," he said, which is why he was tasked to do the research and report back the best tips.
Dowd, who split with W over the war in Iraq, said he visited the libraries of former Presidents George H. W. Bush, Reagan, and Ford. Some documents at the Reagan library were still under lock and key, so he had to get a special pass from Nancy Reagan. And he even paid a call on Rice University's James A. Baker III Institute, where he hit the mother lode of old campaign memos, in part because Baker worked for three presidents.
What Dowd found in 2004 filled a 10-page memo to Card and Rove. But it wasn't all heavy campaign strategy hidden away in the presidential stacks. He found McDonald's wrappers and papers stained with coffee. And on the back of a 1984 debate memo to an unnamed aide, Baker wrote: "The president's feeling down today. Why don't you tell him he looks good?"
Bush's White House may have been the first to dig into the libraries. Bill Clinton's team didn't, says former spokesman Mike McCurry. Referring to Clinton's reliance on GOP strategist Dick Morris at the time, McCurry says, "We did not not need presidential libraries because we had Dick Morris. He assured us he was smarter than all the other presidents combined."
Illustration by Ed Wexler for USN&WR
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