DNC Launches '08 Research Effort
Coverage of the Democratic National Committee's Winter Meeting
Republican presidential candidates take note: if you didn’t think the Democratic National Committee was serious about scrutinizing your every utterance this early in the cycle, look at the resume of the man Howard Dean hired to be his new director of research.
Back in 2003, when Gehrke worked for John Kerry, Dean fell victim, often, to Michael Gerhke’s opposition research. “The chairman has a unique appreciation of tough he is and how critical he is to the effort,” says DNC communications director Karen Finney.
Gerhke will head an expanded DNC research department with the grand title of “Victory 2008.” Primarily, his team will dig deeply into the backgrounds of Republicans running for office. In this era of YouTube politics and oppo research blogs, you’ll see a lot more of their research be released on-the-record, and a lot earlier than usual. Victory 2008 will coordinate with other levers of the party. When the Democrats nominate their '08 presidential candidate, Gehrke and his team will have reams of research to hand over to the campaign.
Gerhke spent the ’06 cycle as the exec. dir of the Senate Majority Project, which was formed to target out of-cycle Senate Republicans. Remember the developing meme that John McCain was pandering to conservatives? A lot of the credit (or discredit, if you’re inclined) belongs to Gehrke’s brain, within which is imprinted a minute-by-minute chronology of everything the Arizona senator has ever said. It’s very easy for Gerhke to download his brain to an e-mail and then to zip it to reporters. The New Hampshire phone jamming scandal? Gerhke’s efforts raised its profile this year.
The DNC’s effort began with Devorah Adler, now the research director for Sen. Barack Obama. It will expand under Gerhke, who, working for John Kerry, knows a thing or two about defining presidential candidates early – or, in this case, having another presidential candidate define your candidate early.
The RNC has a similar, but less public plan. And two of the top GOP oppo researchers in the business -- Barbara Comstock and Matt Rhoades -- have taken positions with Ex-MA Gov. Mitt Romney. [MARC AMBINDER]