Skip to comments.He's the driving force of the Perry machine
Posted on 09/04/2011 4:11:28 AM PDT by Cincinatus' Wife
Show up at a Rick Perry campaign event, whether a book signing in New Orleans, a prayer rally in Houston or a speech to enthusiastic Republican faithful in South Carolina, and you may notice a hulking, gray-haired man standing on the fringes of the crowd.
He rarely gives interviews these days and is not yet well-known outside political circles.
Yet, Dave Carney is, without question, the most important person in Perry's presidential quest outside of the candidate himself.
Almost every presidential election cycle, the spotlight illuminates a campaign guru whose tactical acumen seemingly propels his client to heights unreachable alone.
For Republicans, Karl Rove Bush's Brain occupied that position during George W. Bush's White House years; James Carville was the Democrats' man with a campaign plan for Bill Clinton.
For 2012, Carney is stepping into that role, as his client soars in the early polls and he gets credit for a strategic innovation he put into place for Perry's 2006 Texas gubernatorial race and may be adapting for Perry's presidential quest.
The state's longest-serving governor was insisting as recently as a few months ago that he had no interest in being president, whereas his campaign strategist has been preparing for this moment throughout a long and winding behind-the-scenes odyssey in local, state and national politics.
Carney originally had cast his lot in this year's Republican primary with Newt Gingrich, as his New Hampshire coordinator, but left as part of an exodus of top campaign staff in June. To many, that was a signal Perry would enter the race, which he did three weeks ago.
Neither Carney nor the Perry campaign returned phone calls seeking comment for this report.
Carney, 52, began his political career in his native New Hampshire, working for former Gov. John Sununu, then followed his mentor to Washington when Sununu became President George H.W. Bush's chief of staff.
At 33, he was named national field director for the 1992 Bush-Quayle presidential campaign and four years later was a senior adviser to then-Sen. Majority Leader Bob Dole during the Kansan's White House bid.
At 36, Carney is already a legend among Republican operatives, Time magazine wrote.
After Dole lost to Clinton, the legend retreated to the New Hampshire woods, where he concentrated on growing his consulting firm, Norway Hill Associates, based in his hometown, Hancock.
His wife, Lauren, is co-owner and stays closer to home while Carney flies Southwest Airlines back and forth to Texas.
Former U.S. Sen. Phil Gramm, R-Texas, then chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, brought Carney to the Lone Star State in 1993 to help with Kay Bailey Hutchison's U.S. Senate bid.
Chad Wilbanks, former executive director of the Texas Republican Party, credited Carney with helping Hutchison distinguish herself in a special-election field of 24 candidates and then go on to defeat Bob Krueger, a former Texas congressman appointed by Gov. Ann Richards to serve out Lloyd Bentsen's term when he became U.S. Treasury secretary.
A lot of his skill has to do with his being able to take a wealth of information and break it down into simple terms, whether it's polling data, history, resources, whatever, Wilbanks said. He helps his candidate speak the language that the American people understand.
The New Englander came back to Texas in 1997, when Austin-based GOP consultant Rove dropped his other clients, including a relatively obscure state agriculture commissioner named Perry, to concentrate on Gov. George W. Bush's 1998 re-election effort and subsequent presidential campaign. Carney picked up Perry, and the two have been together ever since.
Carney and Rove found themselves at odds a year later, when Bush was breezing toward re-election, and Perry was in a tough lieutenant governor's race with Democrat John Sharp, the state comptroller.
Carney insisted Perry go negative, despite Rove's insistence that negative campaigning would depress voter turnout and undercut the Bush portrait he was crafting of a compassionate conservative.
Carney got his way and Perry won, barely, but the Carney-Rove working relationship didn't. The estrangement has only gotten worse. Carney never endorsed Bush during the 2000 GOP primary and 10 years later dismissed Hutchison and her Bush-family supporters as country-club Republicans.
In the early days of Perry's presidential campaign, Rove has been one of the governor's most outspoken critics.
The Perry team
Years ago, former White House chief of staff Andrew Card good-naturedly described Carney as temperamental and a bit nuts, but those who know both Carney and Rove say Carney is more secure with himself than Rove.
Reporters find Carney terse and to the point, although he can flash a self-deprecating sense of humor and doesn't seem to hold a grudge.
Like Rove, he has developed a reputation as a no-nonsense professional who will do pretty much whatever it takes to win. A key to Carney's success, said Austin political consultant Bill Miller, is a cohesive campaign team whose members have worked together for years.
The collegiality of the Perry team under Dave Carney is far superior to that of the Bush team under Karl Rove, Miller said. They understand each other better, and they work better together.
The Carney team was in place for Perry's 2002 governor's race against Democrat Tony Sanchez. Despite being outspent 3-1 by the multimillionaire Laredo businessman, the team ran a vicious campaign that focused on Sanchez's failed savings and loan and its alleged connections to drug kingpins. Perry won with more than 57 percent of the vote.
Heading into the governor's 2006 re-election effort, Carney came across a book by Yale political scientist Donald Green that radically changed the way he looked at campaigns.
In Get Out the Vote: How to Increase Voter Turnout, Green and co-author Alan Gerber contend that modern-day campaign staples mass mailings, TV buys and robocalls were striking in their ineffectiveness. What worked, they maintained, were old-fashioned approaches knocking on doors, phone calls by volunteers, public appearances by the candidate.
Carney bought the book for everyone on his team and then invited Green and Gerber, along with political scientists Daron Shaw of the University of Texas at Austin, and James Gimpel of the University of Maryland to test the book's conclusions during the 2006 race.
Gimpel said that invitation proved to him that Carney isn't a know-it-all.
He thinks he has something to learn, and he's willing to learn, Gimpel said last week. I don't know too many consultants who are willing or secure enough to admit that they don't know it all.
Sasha Issenberg, the author of a forthcoming book about the new science of campaigns, told the New York Times recently that the eggheads, as they were known within the Perry camp, ran extensive experiments testing the effectiveness of techniques and concluded the highest-value use of Perry's time as a campaigner was to do public events around the state.
The professors persuaded Carney and the governor that a grass-roots approach not only was more effective politically but also dramatically more cost-effective. TV ads, they concluded, had short-lived impact, and robocalls had no effect at all, while direct mail invariably ended up in the trash.
Their findings provided the scaffolding for Perry's 2010 campaign against Hutchison and Debra Medina in the GOP primary and in the general election against Bill White.
I think that it probably saved them some money and probably kept them from doing some conventional, stupid stuff that doesn't work, during the primary, Gimpel said. It allowed them to run up the margin just enough on KBH that they avoided a runoff. A runoff would have been a $2 million proposition. That freed up resources for elsewhere, and that gave them a leg up on Bill White.
Gimpel particularly was impressed with the home headquarters scheme, which involved supporters volunteering to get 12 pro-Perry voters to the polls. He expects Carney to adapt the idea to Perry's presidential campaign.
Bit of a bully'
Kathy Sullivan, a New Hampshire lawyer and Democratic national committeewoman, professes not to be terribly impressed with Carney's innovation.
That's something we've all been talking about for several election cycles, she said. The way TV works, with TiVo and people speeding through ads, we've been stressing knocking on doors and pounding the pavement for some time. (Former Democratic presidential candidate) Howard Dean was doing it in 2004. It's not original with Dave.
Sullivan admits that she and Carney don't like each other.
I think Dave's a bit of a bully. He has a nasty temper, doesn't like to be challenged, she said last week.
In 2004, Sullivan filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission for Carney's role in trying to get Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader on the ballot in New Hampshire as a way to undercut support for Democratic nominee John Kerry.
The FEC staff wanted to proceed, she said, but the FEC commissioners said no.
Sullivan noted that Carney also has been involved with a Virginia-based group called Americans for Job Security, which has a reputation for running multimillion-dollar attack ads against candidates without disclosing the source of the money.
In 2002, the Alaska Public Offices Commission fined the group for improperly trying to influence Alaska elections. It already is running pro-Perry ads in New Hampshire.
In Texas, the group attacked a Republican state representative from Longview, Tommy Merritt, in a state Senate special election because he had been an outspoken Perry critic and had opposed Republican congressional redistricting efforts.
Dave Carney is a ruthless political consultant, Merritt told the Houston Chronicle in 2009. Dave Carney has no respect for the person's well-being or love of family if they stand in Dave Carney's way.
Gimpel has a slightly different perspective.
He knows he's in charge, he said. He has a foul mouth at times, but probably no more so than a lot of other people in the business. I think it kind of goes with the territory.
I admire Gov Rick Perry’s thick skin approach to the critics who attack him “from the right” but they have a history of supporting the liberal agenda and RINOs.
If it was between Romney and Perry, who would you pick, I know who I would vote for
Smells like victory to me.
Sununu, President George H.W., Sen. Bob Dole, Sen. Phil Gramm, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison ...
That’s not a long list of conservatives, but RINOs.
I like Perry, but he’s not a conservative’s conservative.
I ain’t voting for anyone who was acceptable to the same electorate that put Ted Kennedy and John Kerry in the US Senate.
Sununu, President George H.W., Sen. Bob Dole, Sen. Phil Gramm, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison ...
Thats not a long list of conservatives, but RINOs.
You did not read the article, hence, your post is more useless than Obama's economic policies.
Looks like this guy has never shilled for anyone other than a rino. Newt,Kay Bailey,BobDole,Sununu,and now Perry biggest rino of them all.Tells me something.
And this is not your average presidential election. The country's survival is on the line.
Look how Perry and Carney have built a GOP super majority in Texas.
Look who has worked and failed to unseat Perry (some of those same people).
Prior to Perry, who should Carney have worked for, Democrats?
I’ll ask you too, who has been fighting against Perry or did you stop reading in the middle of the article?
Carney was one of Newt’s staffers earlier this year who quit en masse.
Voters need to look at who wants to nail Perry’s hide to the barn door.
Big Education Unions
Thank you for posting his picture.
hence, your post is...wrong?
Are you saying that the list of John Sununu, President George H.W. Bush, Sen. Bob Dole, Sen. Phil Gramm, and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison is a list of solid conservatives?
Yes he was.
Newt wrote the foreward to Perry's book "Fed Up!"
Agreed, but Perry isn’t a conservative savior, but a pragmatic politician. I like him out of the group we have so far for two reasons 1. he’s relatively conservative and 2. he appears electable, e.g. he can beat Obama. Yet, if Texas were Illinois he’d be a Democrat.
Please, don’t shoot the messenger.