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 TrumpJimmy Carter: 'I hope there's an age limit' on presidency White House fires DHS general counsel: report Trump to cap California trip with visit to the border MORE.

Caddell also worked with Trump and his top strategic campaign advisers, namely Steve BannonStephen (Steve) Kevin BannonWeld 'thrilled' more Republicans are challenging Trump The specter of Steve Bannon may loom over 2020 Trump campaign Sunday shows - Trump's Epstein conspiracy theory retweet grabs spotlight MORE and Kellyanne ConwayKellyanne Elizabeth ConwayObama, Bush among those paying tribute to Cokie Roberts: 'A trailblazing figure' Journalists, political heavyweights pay respects to Cokie Roberts: 'A pioneer for so many' Iran's supreme leader rules out talks with US at all levels 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.”