News & Politics

Patrick Caddell, 1950-2019

Jimmy Carter meets with his staff at the Americana Hotel in New York on Tuesday, July 14, 1976. From left facing camera: Pat Caddell; Jerry Rafshoon; Carter; his son, Chip and Jody Powell. Back to camera is Pat Anderson. (AP Photo)

Very sad news just in:

Patrick Caddell, the political pollster who helped send an obscure peanut farmer named Jimmy Carter to the White House, later became disillusioned with fellow Democrats and finally veered to advise supporters of Donald J. Trump, died on Saturday in Charleston, S.C. He was 68. His death, from complications of a stroke, was confirmed by a colleague, Prof. Kendra Stewart of the College of Charleston.

Patrick Hayward Caddell was born on May 19, 1950, in Rock Hill, S.C. His mother was Janie (Burns) Caddell. His father, Newton P. Caddell, was a Coast Guard chief warrant officer. Patrick grew up near various Coast Guard stations, spending most of his youth in Falmouth, Mass., and Jacksonville, Fla., where he attended parochial high school and also began taking his first public opinion surveys.

“Math was not my favorite subject,” he said, but at 16, for a mathematics project in his junior year, he fashioned a “voter election model” of the Jacksonville area for predicting elections based on early returns. “I set up at the courthouse and called all the elections early with great abandon, with no idea what I was doing,” he said. “And they all turned out right.”

That was the extent of his formal academic training in public opinion research.

I’ve known Pat for a decade or so, and was honored to be on board last summer’s Hillsdale College cruise to Hawaii with him, sharing the stage with him and other conservative intellectuals, including my PJ Media colleagues, Roger Kimball and Victor Davis Hanson. Profound, perceptive, and utterly unable to suffer fools gladly, Pat resembled in appearance and presentation an Old Testament prophet, Jeremiah perhaps, thundering as he tried to make people see the light. Here he is, at his finest, denouncing the arrogance of the “elites’ and celebrating the desire of Americans to govern themselves:

He had only seemingly moved rightward from the time of his service to Jimmy Carter as his pollster and adviser, to his embrace of Trump. But Pat had not moved; rather the world had moved around him. Pat remained devoted to the Constitution, to moral goodness, and to the absolute necessity of doing what was right, even at great personal cost. He was the last honorable Democrat, and he knew it.

I’ll miss him personally and professionally — America will miss him even more.