Bob Shrum Ends Consulting Career

Dominant Strategist for Democrats Ends Consulting Career (NYT)

Bob Shrum, one of the dominant Democratic political strategists and speechwriters of the last three decades, said Wednesday that he was ending his formal consulting career and moving to New York, where he would write and teach at New York University as a senior fellow. “I wanted to reflect on what I’ve done, not just keep doing it,” Mr. Shrum, 61, said in an interview. “And I wanted to draw lessons from what I’d seen and draw implications for the future.” He leaves Washington with a mixed record, having served as an adviser on 26 winning Senate campaigns, perhaps more than any other consultant, but also eight losing presidential campaigns, which may also stand as a record.

May? Who else has had eight shots at running a presidential campaign, let alone without winning once?

Mr. Shrum was a lead adviser to Senator John Kerry’s presidential campaign, where he was sometimes a divisive figure and where he occasionally drew more attention from reporters than his candidate did. He was widely criticized as failing to develop a clean, consistent message. “No one will believe this, but there is a reasonable chance that I would have done this had Senator Kerry won,” Mr. Shrum said of ending his formal work as a consultant. “I didn’t want to go to the White House or lobby.” He said that while he was leaving his highly lucrative media consulting business, Shrum, Devine & Donilon, he would remain engaged in the issues of the day and continue to dispense political advice, although on his own time. He said he would keep a commitment to Senator Jon Corzine, Democrat of New Jersey, should he seek re-election in 2006.

The moment that cemented Mr. Shrum’s reputation came in 1980, when he wrote Senator Edward M. Kennedy’s farewell speech at the Democratic National Convention. “For all those whose cares have been our concern,” Mr. Kennedy said from the stage, “the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives and the dream shall never die.”

So prized were Mr. Shrum’s skills that presidential candidates found themselves competing in the “Shrum primary” to become his client.

If he had stuck with Jimmy Carter in 1976, he would have had one victory under his belt. But he grew disenchanted with Mr. Carter and quit just nine days after joining his campaign.

Just think, if he’d only had more faith in Carter, the country could have been spared those four years of malaise–and all of the sanctimoniousness since. Carter barely beat Ford in 1976. With a little help from Shrum, Ford could have pulled it out. Of course, without the Carter presidency, there might never have been the Reagan presidency.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Bithead says:

    I wonder if Shrummy wrote that laugh riot that Kennedy gave us yesterday?

  2. KnowtheFacts says:

    Uh, Shrum never ran 8 presidential campaigns. Shrum was the speechwriter for McGovern in ’72 and Muskie in ’72, and Kennedy in ’80 — calling him running those campaigns is like saying Peggy Noonan ran Reagan in ’84 … doesn’t make it so. Let’s get the facts straight.

    Shrum was the media consultant for Gephardt in ’88, Kerrey in ’92, Gore in ’00, and the chief strategist for Kerry in ’04. Those are all roles deserving of criticism, but let’s also note that in November ’03 everyone said John Kerry was dead in the water — give Shrum some credit for steering Kerry to victory when everyone said he was dead in the doornail and the Jim Jordans and Andrei Cherneys and Chris whateverhisnameis were jumping ship like rats on the Titanic.

  3. Bachbone says:

    The “Peter Principle” at work. Perhaps Shrum has now reached his ultimate level of incompetence?