Dossier: Life of the Party
Who: Terry McAuliffe, age 45
His specialty: Bringing entrepreneurial zeal to political fund-raising. In 1996, Bill Clinton tapped McAuliffe -- a serial company founder -- to serve as his fund-raiser-in-chief. He is now chairman of the Democratic National Committee.
What he brought to politics: Old-fashioned marketing skills. McAuliffe boosted the direct-mail donor-list database to more than a million names by combing through states' voter lists.
Why that's important to Dems: Keeping up with the Bushies is no small task. Says McAuliffe: "When I started, the Republicans had 15 million names. We had 400,000. Al Gore got 50 million votes, so why did we have only 400,000 people?"
Entrepreneurial upbringing: McAuliffe started a driveway-sealing and -repair business when he was 14. "I made my mother answer the phone 'McAuliffe Driveway Maintenance' all summer," he recalls.
On the trail: The entrepreneur began panhandling for the Democrats after college and at age 22 was the top fund-raiser for the Carter reelection campaign.
Political suicide? To secure a $15,000 pledge from the Seminole Indians in 1980, McAuliffe spent three minutes in a pit with a nine-foot alligator. "It turned out a little differently than I expected," he says. "It wasn't drugged and it wasn't toothless." Still, McAuliffe managed to last in the ring and collect the check.
What Bill Clinton likes about Terry: It could be his charm, or maybe it's the $46 million he raised in the first half of 2002 -- a midterm record.
McAuliffe on selling: "You can never be offended if somebody says no. Never take it personally."
What Bill Clinton hates about Terry: His oft-clicked business plan for the party. "President Clinton says, 'Terry, if I see that PowerPoint one more time, I'm going to jump off a bridge!' " McAuliffe says.
What other people hate: His brazenness. McAuliffe was behind those controversial White House coffees and Lincoln Bedroom sleepovers.
But does that stop him? No way. McAuliffe thrives on competition. "I think Bush has the worst economic team we've seen since Herbert Hoover," he says. "If you look at the polling data, [Democrats] are in great shape because of economic issues. I'm predicting we are going to win four to seven new governors and pick up several House seats and two to three U.S. Senate seats."
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