Political Consultant Racket

Matthew Yglesias has an interesting piece in Washington Monthly on the subject of Bob Shrum and his new book. This passage is especially interesting:

The consultant’s racket, especially on the Democratic side, is a good one to break into. Clients who lose wind up leaving office, losing power and stature. The D.C. power structure, meanwhile, is composed of winners, some of whose campaigns you probably worked for in the past. Even better, it’s fairly rare for an incumbent to lose, so once you have some significant politicians in your Rolodex you don’t need to be especially good at your job to rack up wins. Challengers who hire you and win are in your debt. Challengers who hire you and lose are yesterday’s news. And challengers who want credibility with the big-dollar fundraisers and other party kingmakers need to demonstrate that credibility by hiring someone from the circle of established consultants.

It’s nice work, if you can get it.


One often wonders how people with a consistent losing record keep getting hired to these gigs and moving up the ladder. Then again, that’s a pattern familiar in professional sports, where coaches and managers with abysmal records of failure seem to continually get hired by new teams.

It’s as if the only thing people who do the hiring look at is the list of titles on a résumé — Look at all that experience! — and nobody cares about who won or lost.

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James Joyner
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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:

    But why is Yglesias so loudly going after Shrum? You don’t suppose it could be that he exposed what a lightweight John Edwards is, and that Kerry regretted his choice for a running mate?

    As Hume pointed out a few nights ago:

    Veteran Democratic political consultant Bob Shrum is portraying John Edwards as a political lightweight who was a major disappointment to John Kerry when the two of them ran against President Bush and Vice President Cheney in 2004.

    Shrum characterizes Edwards in a new book as, “a Clinton who hadn’t read the books.” He says Kerry — “wished that he’d never picked Edwards, that he should have gone with his gut,” and selected Dick Gephardt.

    Shrum is a former campaign aide for Edwards — and their relationship soured when Shrum left the Edwards team to work for Kerry in 2003. This is not the first time he has attacked Edwards.

    Look closely, James, and you’ll find Yglesias doing his typical thing; Carrying Democrat Water. IN this case, John Edwards. As such, and as usual, I fail to be impressed by Yglesias.