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Pat Caddell's 'Mr. Smith' Poll Sparked Trump's Bid

Pat Caddell's 'Mr. Smith' Poll Sparked Trump's Bid
Pat Caddell, left, in a staff meeting with Jimmy Carter in 1976. (AP)

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Monday, 18 February 2019 12:31 PM Current | Bio | Archive

Press reports on the death Saturday of famed pollster Pat Caddell, 68, focused largely on his work to elect and advise President Jimmy Carter.

But Caddell’s most enduring legacy was his polling data that informed businessman Donald Trump that a candidate without political experience could win the White House.

In late 2014 and early 2015, Caddell had done significant surveys gauging if Americans would back an independent-style candidate for president.

The polling was funded by Palm Beach socialite Lee Hanley, and it revealed what Caddell said was a coming “earthquake.”

Caddell dubbed his polling project “Mr. Smith,” taken from the classic movie “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.”

The Mr. Smith data, Caddell concluded, showed that an independent candidate not affiliated with the Republicans or Democrats could win the White House.

But Caddell said the polling data showed an even better route.

He said an independent candidate could essentially hijack the Republican party, a party whose Washington leadership was almost totally out of step with its grassroots supporters.

Caddell evangelized his message with several candidates but only one took a keen interest in it: Donald Trump.

Caddell first became noticed on the political scene as a freshman at Harvard working as the chief strategist for Senator George McGovern’s 1972 bid for the presidency.

McGovern upset the Democratic party and grabbed the nomination, only to lose in a landslide to Richard Nixon.

Still, Caddell’s brilliance got the notice of a little-known Georgia governor named Jimmy Carter who made his own bid for the White House in 1976.

Carter, well aware of the role Caddell had played for McGovern in the primaries, told his top campaign chieftain Ham Jordan, “we’ve got to hire this guy.”

They did and they won.

But Carter lost his re-election in 1980 to Ronald Reagan. Caddell recounted that he begged Carter not to do his final debate with Reagan, one in which the former Calif. governor crushed his opponent by asking, “Are you better off than you were four years ago?”

Caddell later shifted away from the Democratic party as it lurched to the left.

He was particularly concerned with the Democrat’s failure to define a national security strategy. He famously denounced the environmental movement as “a conspiracy to deconstruct capitalism.”

In 2012, he appeared in the anti-Obama film “Hope and Change” made by the conservative Citizens United Group.

He also became a Fox News analyst and host.

“He had an incredible ability to master statistics that was morphed from his recalling the stats for baseball teams like the Yankees,” former Rep. John LeBoutillier, R.-N.Y., Caddell’s longtime friend, told Newsmax, “In so doing, he became the Babe Ruth of American politics.”

Caddell co-hosted a Fox News weekend political show with LeBoutillier and Doug Schoen, the famed Democratic strategist.

As controversial as Caddell was and as irksome as he had become to the Democrats he formerly worked for, he was nonetheless respected across the political spectrum. Schoen, who had worked for both Bill and Hillary Clinton in their campaigns, may have put it best.

“Pat Caddell invented modern political polling as we know it and was responsible in substantial measure for the elections of Jimmy Carter and Donald Trump,” Schoen said. “He was a true genius who set the stage for an entire industry and changed politics forever.”

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.

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Press reports on the death Saturday of famed pollster Pat Caddell, 68, focused largely on his work to elect and advise President Jimmy Carter. But Caddell's most enduring legacy was his polling data that informed businessman Donald Trump that a candidate without political...
pat caddell, mr. smith, poll, donald trump
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2019-31-18
Monday, 18 February 2019 12:31 PM
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