"You have probably never heard of Robert Shrum. He's the most sought-after Democratic strategist right now, and today we find out that he's signed on with Kerry. ABC's The Note refers to this as winning the Shrummy or the Shrum Primary. Last year, Joel Klein wrote a piece prophesying the importance. Why the excitement?
"First, there's a soap opera quality to the choice, since Shrum is friendly with everyone in the field. He's worked for Richard A. Gephardt, John Edwards and Kerry. 'He has close personal relationships with a lot of people involved in this process... And it is very difficult to sort that out, and deal with the very high profile atmospherics of all this. There are friendships and relationships at stake here, and he takes that very seriously,' a close friend of Shrum told The Note.
"Second, Shrum has a Kennedy fetish. He's famous for his 'I'm On Your Side' message -- but lately he's veered towards what Joe Klein calls 'an aggressive, pessimistic, and unsubtle strain of economic populism.' We can expect him to work hard on Kerry's charisma deficit, which is seen as the biggest weakness. In so doing, Shrum will change Kerry's formula, which he's used successfully thus far. It's also possible that Kerry can't be molded in the Shrum image.
"The Edwards campaign has picked up on this, referring to this as an irresponsible 'vanity hire.' Sour grapes, of course, but the argument has merit.
"Third, Shrum doesn't have a great record on these races. He made his name in state races, but his candidates have a tendency to drop out during primaries or lose elections outright."
According to his Democracy Corps biography, Shrum was "born in Connellsville, Pennsylvania in 1943. He was raised in Los Angeles, California, where he attended Loyola High School, winning a National Merit Scholarship to Georgetown University and later graduating from Harvard Law School. At Georgetown, he was named the nation's top college debater, and at Harvard he was the winner of the Ames Competition for the best appellate advocacy at the law school. Mr. Shrum was a fellow of the Kennedy Institute of Politics at Harvard University and has taught at Yale and Boston College.
"Mr. Shrum was the principal speechwriter to Senator George McGovern in the 1972 Democratic campaign for President. Subsequently, he served as the Staff Director and Chief Counsel of the United States Senate Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs. Mr. Shrum served as Press Secretary to Senator Edward M. Kennedy from 1980 to 1984, and he was the Senator's principal speechwriter during and after the 1980 presidential campaign.
"As a journalist, Mr. Shrum's work has appeared in New York Magazine, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, and The New Republic, among other publications. He has been a columnist for the Microsoft on-line magazine Slate. He has written for both political and commercial television, including 'The Emmy Awards' on ABC, 'The American Film Institute Life Achievement Awards' on CBS, and the Emmy Award-winning and Peabody Award-winning 'Kennedy Center Honors: A Celebration of the Performing Arts' on CBS.
"Since 1985, Mr. Shrum has conceived and produced advertising (T.V., radio, print) for political clients, over twenty winning U.S. Senate campaigns; six Governors; the Mayors of New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Denver, Dade County and San Francisco; and the Speaker and the Democratic Leader of the United States House of Representatives. Mr. Shrum has consulted internationally for Prime Minister Ehud Barak of Israel, President Andres Pastrana of Colombia, the Fianna Fail in Ireland, and the Labour Party in Great Britain.
"In 1995, Mr. Shrum and his partner Tad Devine won first place in the American Association of Political Consultants 'Pollie' Award, for producing the best sixty-second political commercial of 1994 (for Senator Edward Kennedy.). He won another 'Pollie' in 1986 for producing the best political TV Ad of that election cycle (for Senator Alan Cranston), and in 1997 for producing the best sixty-second political commercial (for Sheriff Nat Glover) of the 1996 election cycle. Mr. Shrum is Chairman of the political media consulting firm Shrum, Devine & Donilon.
"Mr. Shrum served as a Senior Adviser to the Al Gore/Gore for President Campaign. He has been a co-host of CNN's television program 'Crossfire,' and appears regularly on 'Crossfire' and 'Capitol Gang'."
From In Middle of the Kerry Storm, a Man Known to Whirlwinds by David M. Halbfinger, New York Times, November 12, 2003.
- "As Democratic strategists go, Bob Shrum has long been considered one of the heavyweights: a talented speechwriter, an expert at debate preparations, an ideologically committed liberal who has a knack for distilling the essence of a candidate's message into a slogan, sound bite or 30-second commercial."
- "Now, with Mr. Kerry's campaign battling for survival in New Hampshire and embroiled in turmoil and infighting — his press secretary and deputy finance director walked out the door on Tuesday, following the abrupt dismissal of his campaign manager (Jim Jordan) — the talk is less about Mr. Shrum's gifts and more about what some are acidly describing, in this toxic environment, as the Shrum curse.
- "As prominent and well-traveled a figure as Mr. Shrum is — alter ego to Senator Edward M. Kennedy, consultant to four presidential candidates and many senators — there is one thing he has never accomplished: advising a successful presidential campaign.
- "Instead, he has become known as a polarizing figure who dominates and divides a staff, a relentless player of inside politics who will sometimes steamroll colleagues to win an argument, people who have worked with him for years say.
- "To his credit, Mr. Shrum has been an adviser to several successful Senate campaigns. And the problems Mr. Kerry's campaign faces can hardly be ascribed to one consultant, particularly when his team includes so many.
- "'Bob Shrum has been a friend of John Kerry's since he first got into politics, so they go back a long way,' said former Gov. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, Mr. Kerry's campaign chairwoman. 'I have found him to provide valuable input and to be one of the team in doing what's best for John Kerry and the Kerry campaign.'
- "But it is a measure of Mr. Shrum's impact that few believed Mr. Kerry when he denied to his staff that Mr. Shrum was behind the choice of a Kennedy confidante, Mary Beth Cahill, as his new campaign manager.
- "Now that Ms. Cahill has replaced Jim Jordan, who clashed frequently with Mr. Shrum, these Kerry aides said that Mr. Shrum's views were likely to prevail. 'He's not running it, but he's clearly the dominant voice and has the dominant say on strategy,' a campaign official said.
- "Mr. Shrum's influence can be seen in the campaign in ways large and small. It was in the turn of a phrase, when Mr. Kerry began talking in July about a 'preparedness gap' in domestic security. More recently, he helped coin the line 'real Democrats don't turn their backs on the middle class,' which Mr. Kerry used as a jab at Howard Dean and Representative Richard A. Gephardt for supporting a repeal of some tax cuts that benefit middle-income families.
- "It is also there in Mr. Kennedy's growing presence in Mr. Kerry's campaign; his former press spokeswoman, Stephanie Cutter, was named on Tuesday to replace Robert Gibbs.
- "Perhaps not coincidentally, though, Mr. Kerry's was also the first presidential campaign to see an internal clash boil over into public view this year, and Mr. Shrum was at the center of it.
- "Mr. Shrum, who declined repeated requests for comment, made his name as a press secretary and speechwriter for Mr. Kennedy, and wrote his 'dream shall never die' address to the 1980 Democratic convention. But he had already made his reputation as a controversial figure by working for Jimmy Carter in 1976, then quitting after 10 days and criticizing the candidate as he left. He worked for Mr. Gephardt in the 1988 campaign, Senator Bob Kerrey in 1992 and along the way endured noisy business divorces with partners Patrick Caddell and David Doak.
- "Mr. Shrum has been more successful at counseling Senate candidates over the years, including Robert G. Torricelli and Jon S. Corzine of New Jersey. And in 1996, he was credited with helping to rescue Mr. Kerry's re-election battle against Gov. William F. Weld of Massachusetts."
According to William Safire's New York Times November 12, 2003 Op-Ed, "Jeanne Shaheen, the former New Hampshire governor ... prevailed on the candidate to fire his longtime manager, Jim Jordan, and replace him with Mary Beth Cahill, Ted Kennedy's chief of staff. Cahill has impeccable far-left credentials, from Emily's List fund-raising to Representative Barney Frank's staff. She is an ideological soulmate of the superb writer and Kennedy Boston braintruster Robert Shrum, who has been battling Jordan to yank Kerry's moderate position over to the demonstrative dovecote."