Friday, June 10, 2011

The Staff Always Hates the Spouse

You know how Newt's staff complained about his wife? This gives me an excellent chance to dig up one of my favorite Iron Laws of Politics: campaign staffers always hate the candidate's spouse. Let's see...last time I talked about this was in the context of leaks portraying Elizabeth Edwards, Bill Clinton, and Cindy McCain badly. Here's how I put it, so you don't have to click through:
I do have one sort of context-setting thing to add, which is that in all campaigns I've every been involved in and all campaigns I've ever heard about, the staff hate the spouse. I've heard of campaigns in which the staff liked and respected the candidate and some in which the staff hated and had contempt for the candidate, but as far as I know the staff just about always thinks of every candidate's spouse as a meddling, overbearing, pain-in-the-ass.
That's not to say that the various things attributed to Bill, Cindy, Elizabeth, and the rest in the new book are necessarily wrong...I'd just caution people to understand the context. If you try to dig for dirt about the candidates' spouses from staff, odds are you'll find it.
So if you continue seeing people, on the record or anonymously, blaming Callista for the disaster that is (or was) Newt '12, keep that in mind.


  1. Maybe the Iron Law should be that staff always hates the (male) candidate's wife, but not necessarily the husband of a female candidate. Sure, it happened with Hill and Bill, but that had some unique circumstances: the husband was himself an ex-president, and he really did show a knack during that campaign for flying off the reservation.

    In contrast, did anyone in McCain world complain about Todd Palin?

  2. Is that true of Michelle Obama? I can't remember any reporting that suggested ill-will toward her from the campaign.

  3. Kylopod:



    Nothing bad came out (that I remember) about Michelle, but that's because almost everything written about winning campaigns is how brilliant they are.

    It's not gender; it's the structure of campaigns. Staff always believe that they know best. They don't like when candidates have opinions of their own about electioneering, and they don't like to have any rivals for the candidate's ear.

  4. Callista Gingrich really did carry this to an extreme, though. I have no idea what Mrs. Pawlenty or Mrs. Romney or Mr. Bachmann or Mrs. Cain looks like, but I must have seen dozens of photos of Mrs. Gingrich with her hubby at campaign events. Whether that was Newt's choice or hers, there's no doubt that she had become inescapable.

  5. More related to one of your other Iron Laws of Politics. How do you count Gavin Newsom - SF Mayor and now Lieutenant Gov?

  6. The Iron Law is only about NYC mayors. The generalization is about very big city mayors -- NY, LA, Chicago, maybe one or two others. Medium sized city mayors can move up, as Senators Lugar and Feinstein did.

  7. One counter-example: Jill Biden. Campaign staff loved her and for decades used her to "manage" him.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.

Who links to my website?