Professor Wellstone Goes to Washington:
the inside story of a grassroots U.S. Senate campaign
Copyright 1995, by Dennis J. McGrath and Dane Smith
ISBN: 0-8166-2662-6 and 0-8166-2663-4 (pbk)
In December of 1990, on the eve of the Gulf War
, a tattered and beaten rally-bus
pulled into Washington D.C.
When it finally parked outside the Capitol Building a disheveled young college professor emerged to the applause of a couple dozen assembled supporters. A month earlier the young professor
had pulled off one of the most unlikely upsets in American politics. Paul Wellstone
had arrived in Washington to be sworn in as Minnesota's newest United States Senator.
Politics is not money and power games. Politics is about the improvement of people's lives. It is about lessening human suffering and it is about -- and what a time to say this -- advancing the cause of justice and peace in the world. That is what politics is all about. -- Paul Wellstone (January 1990)
Wellstone, born and educated on the east coast, had defeated Rudy Boschwitz
- a popular self-made millionaire
and native Minnesotan. In the American system defeating an incumbent is almost impossible
, but, despite being outspent five to one, Wellstone had defied the odds by building an enormous grassroots
organization and spending what money he was able to raise on innovative and humorous commercials.
Wellstone had also broken most of the "rules" on how to become a U.S. Senator. Rather than the bland, plastic-faced, say-nothing-to-offend-anyone candidate that both major parties seemed most often to choose, Wellstone featured an in-your-face brand of progressive populism that made no apologies for its radical belief in social justice. Or, as Wellstone was want to say, "the little fellers over the Rockefellers."
The full story behind Wellstone's political campaign is chronicled in this book. In a serendipitous move, two Minneapolis Star Tribune journalists, Dennis McGrath and Dane Smith, decided to write a book about the Wellstone campaign - fully expecting him to lose. So, while McGrath continued to cover the campaign as a journalist, Smith was given complete inside access to the Wellstone organization. He was able to sit in on strategy sessions, travel everywhere with the candidate, examine financial records, etc., etc. The result, Professor Wellstone Goes to Washington is a comprehensive study on how to win a low budget grassroots campaign against all odds - and a fully funded incumbent.
Of course the best political campaign plan is to have a great candidate. Paul Wellstone had that going for him as well.