Ed Rollins, the national campaign chairman and senior advisor to Mike Huckabee’s 2008 presidential campaign, discussed his experience in the current presidential election, past campaigns and answered questions from audience members when he stopped by UC Irvine’s Social Sciences Plaza A this past Wednesday, Feb. 13.
The event was hosted by the Center for the Study of Democracy and welcomed community members as well as students.
Rollins began his presentation by giving an explanation of his background. Although Rollins would eventually work on nine presidential campaigns, supporting mostly conservative candidates, he first got into politics as a Democrat. He was majoring in political science at California State University, Chico at the time. However, by 1972 he had switched parties and supported Richard Nixon.
In addressing how to run a campaign, Rollins pointed to three factors: finding voters, communicating with voters and getting voters to the polls. Outside of the audience that campaign managers must target, Rollins also referenced the competition, noting that speed is an important factor in getting to voters first as well as preparing a campaign from any attacks it may face at the hands of other campaign directors.
Rollins had his greatest success in 1984 as the national campaign manager for Ronald Reagan. In one of the most decisive presidential elections in United States history, Regan obliterated his opponent Walter Mondale, winning 49 states. Rollins talked at length about this experience. According to Rollins, the campaign started off timidly as the aging Reagan was unsure if he wanted to seek re-election. However, in making his decision, Reagan said to Rollins, ‘I’m not sure I’m going to run for re-election, but if I do, I want you to run my campaign.’ When Reagan decided to make his bid for re-election, Rollins first consulted with former President Richard Nixon due to his abundance of experience in political strategy. Rollins also stressed that during the Reagan campaign he learned that running a campaign was like managing a 24-hour store, as he always had to be prepared for what the press would deal him.
As the lecture portion of his presentation wound down, Rollins mentioned the strength of the Democratic Party, specifically citing Barack Obama’s strong showing in the Virginia primaries. Rollins also mentioned the need to turn the page on George W. Bush’s presidency, as according to him, people are ready to move on.
The question-and-answer portion of Rollins’ presentation featured a variety of questions ranging from other presidential candidates to Stephen Colbert to creationism.
When asked about Mitt Romney’s decision to suspend his presidential campaign, Rollins stated that Romney had no chance in the election. This is because Romney shared similar stances on issues such as gay marriage, stem-cell research and the Iraq War with Huckabee, thus allowing Huckabee to take away votes from him.
‘With Huckabee in the race [there is] no way he could’ve succeeded,’ Rollins said.
When asked about the most successfully run 2008 presidential campaigns, Rollins was much more willing to dole out compliments to the Democrats than the Republicans. With Republican candidates such as Romney, Rollins at one point mentioned he had to resist the urge to knock Romney’s teeth out. Still, while Rollins admired the efforts of Democrats such as Hillary Clinton, he also noted that she may fail to win the popular vote.
‘[A] dilemma Democrats are going to have [is that] Hillary may still win, but through elected delegates and not the people,’ Rollins said.
By contrast, according to Rollins, Obama has the advantage of being a relatively new face for the people and is a candidate who has yet to make any critical errors in judgment.
‘Obama has momentum; [he’s] a rookie candidate who has not made a mistake,’ Rollins said.
Following his words on the Democratic candidates, one student turned Rollins’ attention to another type of political force, would-be presidential candidate Stephen Colbert. In addressing Colbert, Rollins had nothing but positive comments to make about the faux-news comedian.
‘Any attention is good.