Monday, October 15, 2007

Mark Halperin, Mr. Conventional Wisdom, Does 10 And 1/2

GreenMountainPolitics1 interviewed Mark Halperin by email last week on the eve of his new book tour.

We would like to thank Mark for his time and for being one of the first 500 Pound Political Gorillas to take this blog seriously (way back in January '07).

We wish our friend well with his new book (we'll most certainly be buying a copy).

And, as always, our 10 & 1/2 Interview is run in its entirety and without commentary.


Earlier this year you left ABC News and joined Time Magazine as an editor-at-large and senior political analyst. What are your day-to-day responsibilities for the magazine?

MH: I’m writing for the magazine (I have a piece in the current issue with an overview of the candidates.).

I’m writing for (This week we are launching The Page, which will become many a Monday Morning Clacker fans’ homepage, I hope. You can find it at – and it is the ultimate site to know 24/7 “what’s going on?” in the presidential race).

And I work with TIME on other political projects. I also continue to appear on TV and radio, including in my continuing role as a political analyst for ABC News.
GMP1: In 2006 you co-authored The Way To Win: Taking the White House in 2008. What is the most important lesson (trade secret) that a rising political operative (or candidate) should take from your book?
MH: There are a lot of lessons in there – “trade secrets” as you rightly point out we call them – but I think the most important is “never lose control of your public image.” It seems obvious and simple, but we lay out HOW Bill Clinton and George W. Bush did it in winning four straight elections, and how their opponents failed.
GMP1: You have just completed a new book The Undecided Voter’s Guide to the Next President: Who the Candidates Are, Where They Come From, and How You Can Choose, which goes on sale on October 16. Tell us a little about the book, why you wrote it and what you hope readers will take from it.
MH: The Way to Win is about who makes the best CANDIDATE. This book is about what I think is a more important question: who would make the best PRESIDENT. I used to think there was a pretty heavy overlap between what makes the best candidate and what makes the best president, but I’m not so sure any more.

As I travel around the country, I am meeting an extraordinary number of undecided voters. The new book has chapters on all the candidates, exploring their biographies, their records, their positions, and their quirks. My hope is that under one literary roof, people who want to make a smart choice will buy the book and be able to compare the candidates side by side.

There isn’t a lot of time left to pick, and a lot of the information that will come at voters in the next three months will be about campaign tactics and strategy, and not about, again, who would be the best president.
GMP1: Ok, so who did you find would make the best President? And, if we assume that no other candidate is going to jump into the 2008 race, is it a ominous sign for the eventual winner that so many people are undecided on his (or her) candidacy at this point?
MH: (That seems like two questions to me, putting the whole premise in doubt, but ok.) I found that if each voter looks at the candidates from different perspectives (as the book does), it is possible to make the best decision.

It isn’t my place to actually decide for others – although I am sure that some readers will suggest I have tipped my hand. It is not an ominous sign that there are still so many undecideds – as long as voters buy the book and start to pay attention right now – or, at least, before the start of the World Series.
GMP1: Give us a snapshot of where you think the 2008 presidential race is in October of ’07.
MH: On the Republican side, I think there are four candidates with a greater than 20% chance of being the nominee, which is totally unprecedented and, thus, defies analysis.

On the Democratic side, the puzzle of how to take down the formidable frontrunner keeps returning to four letters: I-o-w-a.

How’s that for snapshotty?
GMP1: What political reality is true today that if someone had told you a year ago would be true you would not believe him or her?
MH: That Rudy Giuliani would be 95% in control of his public image.
GMP1: User generated content (Blogs, podcasting, digital video, wikis etc) is fundamentally altering the way that political campaigns operate, true or false? And why?
MH: “Semi-fundamentally,” because the old rules still apply to more than 85% of campaign business. But the change is inexorable.
GMP1: Outside of GreenMountainPolitics1 (which we know you check several times an hour) what 4 non-MSM political Blogs do you read? And why?
MH: I love all my children equally.
GMP1: Snarky, inside baseball question: Klein, Allen or Todd first in the morning?
MH: In the spirit of The Page: in whatever order they publish.
GMP1: If you weren’t writing about politics what would you be doing?
MH: Living in Tokyo.
GMP1: Finally, would you like to say something completely inflammatory to guarantee that this interview takes a ride on the Freak Show conveyor belt and ends up on Drudge?
MH: Would telling a story about Steve Merrill and the breadbasket at Richard’s Bistro get me onto Drudge?

How about the URL of the YouTube video of Scott Spradling and me at a marathon karaoke session in Boston not too long ago?

If not, I guess the answer is, “no.”