Michael J. Whouley

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Michael J. Whouley is a national field operative and senior strategist for presidential campaigns for the Dewey Square Group (DSG), where he has lobbied on behalf of such corporations as AT&T.

On December 14, 2007, it was reported that Whouley, who had served as a senior strategist for Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.)'s 2004 U.S. presidential campaign as well as the Democratic National Committee's General Election Manager,[1][2] would be performing the same duties on behalf of Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.)'s presidential campaign.[3]

On September 12, 2004, the Boston Herald described Whouley as "one of Kerry's closest aides and the person campaign insiders credit for the senator's comeback victory in Iowa."

Driving public support for GM

In February 2009, the Detroit News reported that General Motors had hired Whouley. "Whouley's addition comes as even some of the companies' allies in Washington have raised questions about GM's political and public relations strategy. ... Last week, when GM CEO Rick Wagoner met with members of Congress, he did not mention that the company would ask for up to $16.6 billion in new federal aid, according to several sources familiar with the discussions. The size of the request surprised even some of the company's staunchest defenders. ... Whouley is widely considered to be one of the Democratic Party's best organizers of grass-roots campaigns, focusing on building field organizations and get-out-the-vote operations for election campaigns. His hiring is likely a signal that GM wants to increase efforts outside Washington to build political support." [4]


DSG's website says, "As a principal and founder of Dewey Square Group, a strategic public affairs firm, Whouley has been a key player in many successful high-profile public policy projects such as the effort to pass the North American Free Trade Agreement, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and the United States Senate's Securities Reform agenda."[5]

In a November 2003 profile of Whouley, the Boston Globe wrote:[6]

Whouley is widely respected in Democratic circles for his organizing prowess, running aggressive field operations to canvass voters, identify caucusgoers, and rally supporters with direct mail and phone banks. He is valued also because he eschews the spotlight; he declined to be interviewed for this profile. With his gravelly voice and no-nonsense demeanor, Whouley is also known for cutting through the red tape that can strangle a campaign.

On January 27, 2004, the Washington Post described similar, organizational strengths:[7]

[Whouley] specializes in the unglamorous work of analyzing voting patterns and identifying a candidate's pockets of strength and weakness. While the media and the voters keep their eyes on the candidate, strategists like Whouley are shuttered away in "war rooms," constantly monitoring the ebb and flow of possible votes, precinct by precinct. Their job is to move resources -- direct-mail pieces, phone-bank calls, door-to-door canvassers, sometimes the candidate himself -- to their highest target of opportunity.

A July 19, 2004, U.S. News and World Report profile stressed his single-minded focus:

[Whouley] believes in winning, in secrecy, in power, in clout, in order, in organization, in loyalty. He believes in John Kerry (just as he believed in Al Gore and Bill Clinton) and unabashedly uses the word "love" to describe his feelings for the man. He had one constant refrain to the troops in Iowa: "We got to make sure the campaign keeps up with the candidate." The candidate would be fine--screw the polls, screw the press--the candidate would do his stuff, hit his marks, make his points, deliver his message, win the crowds. But the campaign had to be ready to handle the result of that. Which is what Whouley did in Iowa. And there was one other imperative that Whouley emphasized: "What we don't do is frigging talk about things." It was the opposite of the strategy of [Howard] Dean's campaign manager, Joe Trippi, who constantly promoted the campaign, the candidate, the movement (and Joe Trippi). ...
... On the night Kerry won the Iowa caucuses, he gathered a small group of reporters in Room 1014 of the Hotel Fort Des Moines and coined the phrase "the magical Michael Whouley." Later that night, as Kerry took a planeload of staff and press to New Hampshire to begin his victory march to Boston and the nomination, Whouley was nowhere to be seen. He didn't get on the plane, which carried virtually all of Kerry's top aides, because he didn't want to risk overshadowing the candidate at his moment of victory. Instead, Whouley drove the 306 miles to Chicago (if you drive, you don't bump into reporters in airports or on planes). ... Just what it is that Whouley does that is so magical is not easy to explain, and if left to his own devices he would rather not explain it at all. Essentially, it has to do with the allocation and coordination of resources, which is not as dull as it sounds but comes close. Whouley is the guy who puts the "organize" in organizer.
... If there were any lingering doubts [among Kerry's Iowa field staff] as to whether Whouley was truly magical or not, it was settled on the day he decided he wanted a helicopter. A helicopter, Whouley believed, would make Kerry look even more presidential. The public is used to seeing presidents climb in and out of helicopters. Helicopters also reminded people of Vietnam, and anything that reminded people of Vietnam was good for Kerry. So Whouley picked up the phone to Washington and said he wanted a chopper. Whouley's friend and associate at the Dewey Square Group, Joe Ricca, was worried about the cost. The campaign was running on fumes, but Whouley wanted a helicopter. "It sucked up a lot of money," Ricca recalled. "I remember yelling, 'I want the frigging helicopter!' " Whouley recalled.


Whouley was the national field director of Al Gore's presidential campaign in 2000, and held the same position in Bill Clinton's 1992 campaign. (In 1996, he served as Gore's campaign manager.) In 1988, Whouley ran Massachusetts Governor Michael S. Dukakis' presidential campaign in three states. Previous to that, he worked on John Kerry's run for lieutenant governor of Massachusetts in 1982 and the U.S. Senate in 1984.[6]

Whouley "was among a small team of Democratic operatives who boosted the candidacy of a promising but little-known governor named Bill Clinton in 1991 (one of his gimmicks was to plant at an important party meeting fortune cookies reading, 'You have Bill Clinton in your future.')," the Washington Post reported January 27, 2004.[7]

Regarding the 2000 Gore election, the Baltimore Sun wrote July 25, 2004, "According to legend, Whouley, seeing early primary-day exit polls in New Hampshire that showed Gore behind, considered flipping a tractor-trailer to block traffic on the interstate running through suburbs friendly to Gore's opponent, to prevent his backers from voting. (Whouley later denied that rumor, and said he was only joking when he bragged that Gore's campaign had sent slow-moving vehicles onto the highway to merely snarl traffic instead.)"

The Washington Post had a different take on Whouley's role in the Gore campaign: "During the 2000 primaries, Whouley helped Gore beat back Bill Bradley's strong challenge in Iowa and New Hampshire, in part by some quick thinking. With exit polls showing Gore down by 4 percentage points on primary day in New Hampshire, Whouley quickly dispatched Gore staffers to knock on doors, helping the vice president to a narrow victory."

The National Journal reported August 12, 2000, that Whouley "won the nickname 'Brain' on the Gore staff" after "righting a foundering Gore ship before the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary."

Counseling against concession

In 2000, Whouley "placed a frantic call urging Gore to hold off, because late numbers from Florida cast doubt on results from the pivotal state. Gore complied, setting in motion a 36-day dispute about the Florida vote that the Supreme Court ultimately settled in Bush's favor."[6]

He may play a similar role following the 2004 presidential elections, which are expected to be close: "On Election Day, Whouley will head the so-called 'boiler room,' probably in Washington, that tracks vote counts and ensures Kerry doesn't concede too soon," reported Associated Press. "Right now, we have 10,000 lawyers out in the battleground states on Election Day, and that number is growing by the day," Whouley told teh Associated Press.[8]

SourceWatch resources

External links


  1. "Kerry picks senior campaign aide," CNN, September 6, 2004.
  2. "John Kerry-Campaign Organization. General Election Edition: A sketch of the Kerry organization in Fall 2004," last updated April 3, 2004.
  3. Mark Halperin, "Out of the Mist," The Page/TIME, December 14, 2007.
  4. Gordon Trowbridge and David Shepardson, "GM hires veteran political consultant: Michael Whouley, a Democratic Party organizer, is expected to rally for public support for automaker," The Detroit News (Michigan), February 20, 2009.
  5. This Dewey Square staff page is no longer active.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Glen Johnson, "Mass. political consultant aims to put Kerry campaign on right track," Boston Globe, November 30, 2003.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Paul Farhi, "Low-profile consultant creates 'magic' for Kerry campaign. Many credit Michael Whouley with success in Iowa," Washington Post (Concord [N.H.] Monitor), January 28, 2004.
  8. Ron Fournier, "Kerry's strategy for Nov. 3: Do not repeat Gore's mistakes," Associated Press, October 20, 2004.