More thoughts on important early Obama supporters

Reflecting on Ben Smith’s post at Politico about early Obama supporters, it occurred to me that he forgot John and Jackie Norris, and I should write something about that.

Bleeding Heartland user RF was on the same wavelength. After reading my post last night, he put up this comment:

On the list of prominent early Obama supporters, I think John Norris should be there instead of Gordon.  Like you pointed out, Gordon was not onboard that early.  I saw Norris at various Obama meetings and at his IA headquarters very early.  With his background, I also suspect his input had more to do with Obama’s success than anything Gordon did.

John Norris ran John Kerry’s Iowa operation during the last presidential campaign. As a precinct captain for Kerry, I can confirm that Norris did a lot to hold that campaign together during several months of one discouraging poll after another. He made sure his field organizers kept doing their jobs and lining up precinct captains, and they made sure precinct captains didn’t panic and kept lining up supporters.

John Norris initially backed Tom Vilsack for president. He had worked on Governor Vilsack’s staff and been appointed by Vilsack to serve on the Iowa Utilities Board.

The day Vilsack ended his presidential campaign, Jerome Armstrong observed, “Whoever lands John Norris will be the winner from Vilsack dropping out.”

Norris did not take an official position with the Obama campaign, but his wife Jackie Norris joined the Obama staff in Iowa very soon after Vilsack left the race.

As RF noted, John Norris’s input must have been quite helpful to Obama’s team as they set up their campaign operation in Iowa.

In addition, I am certain that having the Norrises on board helped Obama win over many Iowans who had caucused for Kerry in 2004.

On at least one occasion, I remember a field organizer for Obama telling me that John Norris was supporting Obama after she learned that I had been a precinct captain for Kerry.

I remember talking with an active Democratic volunteer from a neighboring precinct sometime last summer. She also had supported Kerry in 2004 and was undecided at the time we talked. She mentioned that it made a big impression on her that Jackie Norris quit her job to go work for Obama.

I haven’t seen that woman in a while and don’t know which candidate she eventually picked. But I wouldn’t be surprised if Obama field organizers were advised to bring up the Norrises whenever they encountered former Kerry supporters.

Ben Smith mentioned that the people who backed Obama early in the campaign “could be expected to have real access, and in some cases major jobs, in an Obama White House.”

Whether or not Obama chooses John or Jackie Norris for a job in his administration, Obama’s support would be a huge asset to John Norris if he runs for any political office. Norris ran for Congress against Tom Latham in 2002, and I expect he will seek some elective state or federal office in the future.  

With potential backing from Obama, Vilsack (who I doubt would hold a grudge over Norris not supporting Hillary Clinton) and labor unions who appreciated his deciding vote in favor of a new coal-fired power plant near Marshalltown, Norris would have a leg up on rivals in a Democratic primary.

The environmental community would probably not support Norris in a primary, but I’m sorry to say that I am not aware of any Iowa Democrat whose political career suffered from not protecting the environment enough.  

  • Jackie Norris

    I had the opportunity to have Jackie as my gov teacher in high school (maybe 5 years ago).  It was truly an incredible opportunity and an eye opener.  She was probably the one who spurred my interest in politics.  

  • So much agreement as of late!

    I should have included Jackie in my comment as well.  She has been the one constant staffer keeping the Iowa operation going since the caucus.  And clearly she was a major force before the primary as well.

    I like John Norris.  You are right, he, and Jackie, look to have a bright future in the party, especially if Obama ends up in the White House.  But like you, I was very disappointed in the coal plant ruling.  I’m just hoping those imposed conditions will force Alliant to reconsider.  Or maybe the DNR denies their air permit.

    • the DNR is probably the best hope

      especially since the latest research suggests that particulate matter in the air causes even more premature deaths than previously realized.

      Also the IUB will hold hearings later this year on ratemaking. It’s possible they could impose conditions that would make the plant unprofitable, so Alliant would pull out.

      Still, the whole thing should have been over and done with already. I don’t expect much from a former attorney for utilities (Krista Tanner), but I expected more from John Norris.

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