FREEMAN'S CAMPAIGN DIARY
CRANSTON FOR PRESIDENT CAMPAIGN - 1984
Part 5: SUMMARY LETTER
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Riggs Pl. NW
Washington, D.C. 20009
May 5, 1984
Schnader, Harrison, Segal & Lewis
1600 Market St.
Philadelphia, Pa. 19103
Since I have lots of time on my hands these days I will take advantage of
the opportunity to respond to your letter of April 19. I'm sure others will
do the same and hope you will share everyone's comments with all of us.
We all went through a very meaningful experience without much time to think
about it while it was happening and a collective post mortem would be of
Thanks for the draft platform on nuclear arms control. I had heard a great
deal about it from Sally Lou Todd, our organizer in Minnesota, who is working
to get it incorporated into the DFL Platform and has succeeded in getting
herself elected to the State convention as it's prime spokesperson. Sally,
like several other people I know, attempted to join with the Hart forces,
but became disillusioned and is now running uncommitted. If she gets to
the Democratic Convention, you can count on her to support any Cranston
platform efforts. I too expect to be at the Convention, as I made arrangements
to get press credentials in January. So if anything is planned, please let
me know how I can help.
There are two questions that must be addressed by a post mortem. One is
why Cranston didn't do better in Iowa, and the other is why Hart emerged
as the alternative to Mondale. I will give you my thoughts on these in reverse
The lesson I learned from this campaign is one which, after 20 years of
political organizing, I do not like to learn. It is that at least in contests
in which voters are well saturated with information and appeals, organization
is not all it's cracked up to be, and image is. I have been participating
in, watching and/or studying campaigns for thirty years. They are unique
entities, unlike any other kind of organization or activity. A good campaign
combines the best elements of a social movement with those of a well oiled
machine (spontaneity and efficiency). A lousy campaign combines the worst
of these (disorganization and bureaucracy) or leans too much toward one
or the other. That does not mean that a good campaign is always a successful
one. Success, alas, is dependent on many other things, not the least of
which is luck. In the modern, media-saturated era, it also seems that success
is very dependent on image.
While there are always things that could have been done differently, based
on my experience this was a well organized campaign run by competent professionals
who dealt magnificently with the inevitable crises that beset any campaign
and utilized well the limited resources that were available. I don't think
a little more money or a few more ads or a bit tighter organization would
have made any difference. We had the second best organization and the third
most successful fundraising effort. We didn't come in second or third, and
Glenn, who had more money, didn't do that well. The winner of the second
tier was a person with little money or organization. Those weren't the key
Neither was strategy. The basic campaign strategy was a good one. The
campaign correctly observed that there was an enormous amount of non-Mondale
sentiment out there resulting in part from Mondale's personal lack of
appeal and partly from traditional American animosity to being dictated
to by elites. The voters were looking for someone else, and focused on
the leader of the second tier in Iowa as that alternative. The campaign
correctly concentrated its resources in Iowa (and to a lesser extent in
New Hampshire) rather than making Glenn's mistake of spreading himself
too thin. But it also held a little in reserve to create a bare bones
structure in other states so that effective mobilization could have been
accomplished had Alan emerged as the one to beat. Hart did not do this,
and I think he's suffering from that error now.
The main problem was image. To those who look beneath the surface, Cranston
is an appealing candidate. He's idealistic enough to stand for something
besides his own election, and practical enough to utilize what opportunities
present themselves to achieve his goals. He is the candidate of the thinking
person and the practical idealist. Unfortunately the voters in this election
thought less than they reacted to their own gut feelings--and to what
the press told them.
Hart was the prime beneficiary of free press publicity. He emerged as
a main contender after the first New Hampshire debate where, apart from
Jackson, he was the only second tier candidate who received extensive
and positive press commentary. I think this coverage directed the voter's
attention to Hart and gave him the momentum he needed to make up for the
resources he lacked. I have been much amused to listen to reporters' comment
after the New Hampshire primary that they didn't see him coming. If you
read the press coverage after that first debate I think you will see that
they created his coming. How much of a role Pat Caddell had in this I
don't know. Mark Cohen gave Caddell a lot of credit for creating something
out of nothing with "smoke and mirrors". I think Mark's an astute
political observer but people I've talked to in the Hart campaign discredit
Caddell's influence, and Hart has said publicly that he did nothing he
did not intend to do before Caddell's entry as an unpaid advisor. If Caddell
was influential, I don't know what it was he did. I didn't see any great
change in Hart's campaign, merely in the press coverage, but then again
I wasn't watching.
Although I have been a reporter off and on for fifteen years, I can only
speculate on why the press picked up on Hart. I'd like to think that the
press do the thinking and indepth analysis of the candidates that the
voters don't have time to do, but I doubt it. I think they respond to
the crowd as much as the crowd responds to them. And the crowd responded
to Hart in the flesh more than it responded to Cranston. The one time
that I had a chance to observe this was at the Forum for Women State Legislators
in San Diego last December that I covered for In These Times. Hart and
Cranston were the only speakers. Their speeches had the same content;
same issues, same themes. Hart was interrupted with applause six times,
Cranston only once. As a reporter I heard that difference and had I been
uncommitted I would have thought that it meant that Hart was the more
appealing candidate. Afterwards I suggested to Ambrosino that I could
rewrite that speech to get Cranston more applause lines. I've given enough
speeches to know that it's style more than substance that evokes applause.
Ambrosino told me not to bother; Cranston's style was his style, and was
A process of elimination would also account in part for the press attention
to Hart. Askew and Hollings were southerners. Few reporters or major papers
are southern and after Carter the press won't pay attention to anyone
who is. Jackson is Jackson. His attraction had nothing to do with electing
the next President. McGovern did a good job of changing the press' original
ridicule to respect, but he was never perceived as a serious candidate.
Glenn suffered from his press attention which widely advertised his lack
of organization. That leaves Hart and Cranston.
The question I can't answer is why the press didn't have the sense to
look below the surface of both candidates prior to New Hampshire. Since
then the press has looked at Hart more piercingly, and found him wanting.
Cranston would have withstood the same scrutiny, but he didn't get it.
The press' ignorance about Cranston was brought home to me by an ABC commentator
the day after Iowa who said that to be a successful candidate you had
to have either style or substance and Cranston had neither. He was right
about lack of style, but no reasonable observer could say Cranston lacked
substance. Nonetheless, one must confront the fact that if his substance
was not seen it does not matter if it was there. This is part of what
leads me to my reluctant conclusion that image is more important than
Not that I've totally given up on organization, merely relegated it to
a less important place than previously. If we had won in Iowa and New
Hampshire but failed to prepare the ground in the other states we would
be in the same situation that Hart now finds himself in--slowly sinking
from sight. I've talked to enough people on the Hart national staff and
in New York, and heard enough from Sally in Minnesota to know that the
Hart campaign can't organize it's way out of a paper bag. I once wrote
an article on the women's movement called "The Tyranny of Structurelessness."
I could do a new version on the Hart campaign. The campaign has no lines
of communication between the workers and the decision-makers, or the states
and the headquarters. It can't organize events or make policy. There's
too much bureaucracy and too little organization; too much aimless activity
and too little authority. Influence, such as it is, derives from whom
you know and how long you've known them rather than what you know. There's
a small group of people who run things (insofar as things are run) and
they only talk to themselves or their friends, who aren't necessarily
the actual campaign workers. The consequence is that for all practical
purposes the campaign is closed to new people or new ideas (how ironic!).
It appears to operate on the philosophy that image has got them this far,
it will get them the rest of the way.
Initially I shrugged this off as due to the overwhelming onslaught of
supporters that followed New Hampshire. We would have choked on it too--for
a while. My guess is that it would have taken the Cranston campaign about
three weeks to absorb all the new resources and the new demands that would
have arisen had we been the ones to win. The Hart campaign hasn't absorbed
them yet, and my guess is they won't. In retrospect this was predictable,
as even before Iowa the Hart campaign did not effectively organize what
resources they had. Georgia was one of my states. Hart had a campaign
there for a year prior to the slating deadline, yet filed only 41 delegate
candidates. We had a campaign there for three weeks and filed 53. More
importantly, our filers were evenly distributed among the CDs to maximize
our potential delegates. The Hart people were erratically distributed,
indicating that there was no central decision making authority telling
people which districts to file for or making sure that as many bases as
possible were covered.
Although this lack of organization may not bother average voter, I find
it scary. One thing I've learned from campaigns is that they tend to mirror
the candidate's strengths and weaknesses. I don't know why they do this,
as in theory it's the campaign manager not the candidate who runs things.
Perhaps the candidate picks as the manager someone like him/herself. Or
perhaps the manager and other top personnel pick up from the candidate
cues on what is important and how to act and pass them on to those below
(that was the case in my study of Bella Abzug's 1976 Senate campaign for
the Eagleton Institute). Whatever the reason, I've seen this phenomena
so often that I think one learns a great deal about a candidate by looking
at his/her campaign. Having watched the Hart campaign, albeit indirectly,
I am not reassured at the thought of a Hart Presidency. Image isn't everything.
Some things have to be organized.
So much for Hart. My thoughts on Iowa are much sparser and much more speculative.
Unfortunately, I was never in Iowa so what I have to say about it is based
on very limited facts and a lot of rumor. Obviously our "ones"
were not as solid as we thought they were (or as the campaign staff were
told they were). Nor were there as many of them. Perhaps we didn't have
as good an organization as we were supposed to have but we still had a
better one than anyone else (except Mondale). I will take it as a given
that about half our supporters deserted us for McGovern. Certainly, if
we had retained that support, we would have tied Hart for second and created
an entirely different dynamic in New Hampshire. We might still have lost
to style. On the other hand, we might have prompted the press scrutiny
of substance that we so sorely lacked, and I assume, have come out the
better for it.