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.
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.