The political pollster Patrick Caddell passed away on February 16, after complications following a stroke. Caddell was 68. He is best remembered for his role in helping to get President Jimmy Carter elected — and for his later work advising members of the Trump administration. Here’s what you need to know about Patrick Caddell:
1. Caddell Got His Start In Politics as a Harvard Student Working on George McGovern’s Campaign
In 1972, Caddell was a senior at Harvard University. He joined the presidential campaign of Senator George McGovern, acting as an advisor to the left-wing, populist candidate. After McGovern lost to Richard Nixon, Caddell stayed in politics, eventually getting involved in Jimmy Carter’s successful bud for the White House in 1976. Caddell is credited with pushing Carter to campaign early, well before the Iowa caucus, and to campaign in states that his rival was ignoring. But Caddell is also often blamed with advising Carter to give his notorious “malaise” speech, which many blame for Carter’s loss to Reagan in 1980.
Caddell advised Joe Biden in his presidential campaign of 1988. But in the 1990s, the pollster became disillusioned with the Democratic party which, he said, had left behind its populist roots.
2. Caddell Called Steve Bannon a ‘Good Friend’ & Consulted With the Trump Campaign Ahead of the 2016 Election
In 2016, the Washington Post reported that Steve Bannon — who was a key adviser to Donald Trump at the time — had met with Patrick Caddell and consulted with him about Trump’s campaign. The Post’s sources reported that Bannon and Caddell had been “speaking regularly” ever since Bannon first joined the Trump campaign. The two men had aparently been talking about strategies the candidate could use to increase his appeal with Democrats and Independents. The Post reported that Bannon liked Caddell’s experience and his style, seeing him, the newspaper said, as an “anti-establishment agitator.” Caddell himself described Bannon as a “good friend.”
Caddell partnered with Bannon again in 2018, when Bannon was trying to rally voters to back Republicans in the midterm elections. Caddell acted as an adviser to Bannon’s organization, Citizens of the American Republic. “We need to go in depth to find out whether or not there is a new paradigm to have in the midterms,” Caddell told CNBC at the time. “Is this going to be a normal midterm about how the opposition party are going to win in a district-by-district basis? Or can we have a different kind of situation, which nationalizes the election on different grounds?”
3. He Once Called Trump a ‘Successful Clown’
Caddell first met Donald Trump in the 1980s; Caddell later told the New Yorker that he realized quickly that Trump was someone who deserved to be taken seriously. “People said he was just a clown,” Caddell told the New Yorker. “But I’ve learned that you should always pay attention to successful ‘clowns.’ ”
Years later, Caddell advised members of the Trump campaign, working with Steve Bannon and with Robert Mercer, one of Trump’s top financial backers. Some people believed that Caddell inspired Trump to begin his sharp criticism of the mainstream media. Back in 2012, Caddell gave a speech at a conference sponsored by Accuracy in Media, a conservative watchdog group, in which he called the media “the enemy of the American people.” Trump first tweeted that the press was the “enemy of the American people” in 2017, after a meeting with Caddell in Charleston.
4. Caddell Was Sometimes Dismissively Called a ‘Fox News Democrat’
Caddell was a frequent guest commentator on Fox News, which led to Salon magazine handing him the moniker of “the ultimate Fox News Democrat. Caddell continued to describe himself as a Democrat, but consistently took positions against the Democratic party. He supported the US-led invasion of Iraq and opposed healthcare reform. He was a backer of President George W Bush and a supporter of moderate Democrats like Joe Lieberman.
5. Caddell Is Survived by One Daughter & Three Grandchildren
Caddell passed away in Charleston, South Carolina, on February 16. He is survived by his daughter, Heidi Caddell Eichelberger, and by his three grandchildren. He is also survived by his brother, Daniel, and a sister, Patricia Roberts.