Pat Caddell leaves an indelible mark on the American political landscape

Pat Caddell was a brilliant pollster with a sharp mind who understood the American electorate in a way that very few do. Caddell, who died Saturday at the age of 68, will be remembered for his intellect, his passion, and as an architect of modern day political consulting. However, to me, Pat was also a friend, a mentor, and someone for whom I had the utmost respect. Indeed, I knew a side of Pat that few did. While many often viewed him as angry and abrasive, I saw a caring and devoted family man who would have quite literally gone to any length for his children and grandchildren.

Pat was a revolutionary campaign strategist who redefined, and dare I say invented, political consulting. Indeed, the industry as it exists today would be remarkably different if not for his notable work and vision. His work on the Democratic primary campaign of George McGovern in 1972 earned him national acclaim, as his unique strategy enabled McGovern, a left wing populist candidate, to secure the party nomination, beating out his establishment rivals. Indeed, my own political consulting business model was based on the one that Caddell established and implemented in 1972.


Caddell is perhaps best known for the significant role he played in the stunning victory of Jimmy Carter in 1976, and he is the one credited with devising the innovative strategy that enabled Carter, a southern peanut farmer, to ascend to the highest office in the nation. Brilliantly, his strategy touched on the anger and resentment among voters at the time, painting Carter as an outsider who could heal the country after Watergate and the Vietnam War. In a rare and candid moment, campaign manager Hamilton Jordan confidently shared credit for their successful campaign, saying to a reporter, “You know why Jimmy Carter is going to be president? Because of Pat Caddell. It is all because of Pat Caddell.”

Perhaps better than anyone else, Caddell understood the depth of our democracy with all the good and the bad. Specifically, he had a sharp sense of the conflict and voter frustration that is an inevitable byproduct of our two party system. Specifically, he understood the concept of voter alienation and the anger of the electorate in a way that no one else ever had. His unique ability to understand the electorate led him to be one of the very few who foresaw the rise and ultimate victory of Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpPapadopoulos on AG's new powers: 'Trump is now on the offense' Pelosi uses Trump to her advantage Mike Pence delivers West Point commencement address MORE.

Caddell also worked with Trump and his top strategic campaign advisers, namely Steve BannonStephen (Steve) Kevin BannonTrump's nastiest break-ups: A look at the president's most fiery feuds Juan Williams: The new abnormal Catholic cardinal says Steve Bannon using monastery for political purposes MORE and Kellyanne ConwayKellyanne Elizabeth ConwayGeorge Conway: Pelosi is playing Trump 'like a drum' Schumer: Trump was 'agitated' during White House infrastructure meeting Trump, Pelosi exchange insults as feud intensifies MORE, to develop their strategy for appealing to voters during the 2016 campaign. Caddell truly understood exactly how powerful the slogan “Make America Great Again” was in 2016, and how the concept of “draining the swamp” resonated with voters who were angry, disenchanted, and felt left behind by the federal government.

Ultimately, Pat Caddell was many things. He was brilliant, passionate, and a true visionary. He revolutionized political consulting, and his work will instruct those who are involved in the highest levels of campaigns for centuries to come. He has left an indelible and undeniably distinct mark on the American political landscape, and he will be immensely missed.

Douglas E. Schoen (@DouglasESchoen) served as a pollster for President Clinton. A longtime political consultant, he is also a Fox News contributor and the author of several books, including “Putin’s Master Plan: To Destroy Europe, Divide NATO, and Restore Russian Power and Global Influence.”