Early in tonight’s debate, Fred Thompson claimed that Mike Huckabee’s campaign manager had declared the Reagan coalition “over.” Thompson was wrong. It was Huckabee’s national chairman, Ed Rollins, who was quoted saying that the coalition was “gone.” For the full context of the comment see here.
I saw Rollins in the hallway after the debate, and asked him if he saw the Thompson attacks coming. (In the course of the 90-minute debate, the Thompson campaign sent reporters four oppo memos attacking Huckabee.)
“We knew the Fred stuff was coming,” Rollins said.
“What did you think about it?” I asked.
“This is a guy who came in eighth in a six person race in New Hampshire,” Rollins deadpanned.
(Rollins exaggerates somewhat: Thompson came in sixth in a seven-person field in New Hampshire, losing to Huckabee by a factor of 10. Huckabee got 26,768 New Hampshire votes; Thompson got 2,886.)
UPDATE: A couple hours later, I ran into Rich Galen, a senior advisor to Thompson, at the hotel bar. I told him what Rollins said. Galen told me that Rollins had stolen his joke. Even before the New Hampshire primary, Galen said he had been saying, “If there are eight people running, we’d finish ninth” in New Hampshire.
As it happened, Rollins was having a drink on the other side of the bar. So I walked over and asked him if he had really used Galen’s words to attack Thompson. Rollins did not miss a beat. “Rich Galen has given me most of my great lines in my life,” he said. “He did not give me that one.”
This is how odd campaigns are: Even as Galen’s candidate attempts to destroy Rollins’ candidate, the two can still joke about their old friendship through a reporter. It was notable, however, that a reporter was needed. The two men stayed on different sides of the bar all night.