James Carville was born on October 25, 1944 in Carville, Louisiana, a town that was named after his paternal grandfather. Carville earned both his undergraduate and Juris Doctor degrees from Louisiana State University. After serving two years in the U.S. Marine Corps and later working as a high-school teacher, he was a litigator at a Baton Rouge law firm from 1973-79.
Carville launched a new career in politics in 1982 when he managed his first campaign, a U.S. Senate race in Virginia. While subsequently managing Lloyd Doggett’s unsuccessful bid for governor of Texas a year later, the fiery Carville acquired the nickname “Ragin’ Cajun” and began to collaborate professionally with fellow political consultant Paul Begala. Thereafter, Carville went on to advise the successful campaigns of Pennsylvania Governor Robert Casey in 1986, Kentucky Governor Wallace Wilkinson in 1987, and U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg (New Jersey) in 1988. In 1989, Carville and Begala teamed up to form a political consulting firm that bore their names and specialized in helping Democrats win elections.
After Carville managed Zell Miller’s 1990 gubernatorial victory in Georgia, he and Begala together achieved national attention in 1991 for their work on the Senate campaign of Pennsylvania Democrat Harris Wofford, who came back from a 40-point deficit in the polls to win his election against Dick Thornburgh. But the crown jewel of Carville and Begala’s careers was their work on Bill Clinton‘s 1992 presidential campaign against George H.W. Bush. Also during that election season, Carville met Mary Matalin, Bush’s deputy campaign manager, whom he (Carville) would marry in 1993.
Following Clinton’s presidential victory, the American Association of Political Consultants named Carville as its “Campaign Manager of the Year.” Clinton, for his part, appointed Carville as his senior political adviser in the White House. At that point, Carville for the most part retired from managing U.S. campaigns, though he did do some work on the presidential bids of John Kerry in 2004 and Hillary Clinton in 2008.
Most of Carville’s post-1992 consulting work was with foreign campaigns, which included successes like those of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak (1999), British Prime Minister Tony Blair (2001), Bolivian President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada (2002), and Colombian presidential candidate Juan Manuel Santos (2010). Among the failed campaigns that Carville worked on were those of Afghan presidential candidate Ashraf Ghani (2009) and Buenos Aires Governor Daniel Scioli (2015).
In 1999, Carville and Democratic pollster Stanley Greenerg co-founded Democracy Corps, a 501(c)(4) organization whose stated purpose is to “mak[e] the government of the United States more responsive to the American people” by promoting Democratic candidates and agendas.
Between 2002 and 2005, Carville — along with such notables as Paul Begala, Tucker Carlson, and Robert Novak — co-hosted the CNN debate show Crossfire. Following Crossfire‘s cancellation in June 2005, Carville appeared regularly on another CNN program, The Situation Room. And from 2006 to 2010 he co-hosted a weekly XM Radio show titled 60/20 Sports with Luke Russert, son of the late Tim Russert.
In 2009 Carville joined the faculty of Tulane University, teaching in the Political Science Department.
In a July 2014 interview, Carville, a self-identified Catholic, stated that he was “crazy about” Pope Francis, a man renowned for his leftist political orientation. “I think he’s a great guy,” said Carville. “… I think he’s just what the church needs.” When asked to identify contemporary political issues where the views of the Catholic Church and American liberals were most clearly aligned, Carville replied: “Family and medical leave, immigration, progressive taxation, supplemental nutrition assistance programs, Medicaid expansion, affordable health care—it’s a lot…. The idea that a child with a cleft palate or diabetes can’t receive medical attention for lack of money is about as anti-Catholic as you can get.”
In August 2015, Carville downplayed the enormous scandal wherein Hillary Clinton had feloniously and repeatedly violated the Espionage Act by using an unsecured, private server for all of her email communications throughout her recent tenure as Secretary of State. By Carville’s telling, the media’s exaggeration of the scandal’s significance was “bordering on ridiculous.”
In August 2016, Carville asserted that Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump was “pretty stupid when it comes to politics,” adding that “this guy is a loser and he’s not running a very smart campaign.” When a Vanity Fair interviewer asked Carville, less than three weeks later, to comment on the upcoming presidential election between Trump and Hillary Clinton, Carville said: “It’s hard to look at it right now and come to any other conclusion than it is going to be a pretty sizable win for the Democrats.” Moreover, he described Trump as a candidate who “fit perfectly with at least half of the Republican Party, which is some version of an ethnocentric, nationalistic party” whose white members tended, in Carville’s vernacular, to embrace Trump’s claims that all of their problems had been caused by “stupid politicians and immigrants.”
In a number of February 2020 media appearances, Carville voiced his displeasure at the prospect of Bernie Sanders, who was rising in the Democratic primary polls, possibly winning the party’s presidential nomination. He branded Sanders as a “communist,” characterized his base of support as a “cult,” and warned of the “end of days,” if Sanders were to be the Democratic nominee. Carville’s pessimism was not due to any disagreements that he had with Sanders on key issues. Rather, it was due to his belief that the American public was not yet ready to accept an out-in-the-open communist message — from Sanders or any other candidate. As Carville explained in a February 7 interview with Vox.com:
“We have candidates on the debate stage talking about open borders and decriminalizing illegal immigration. They’re talking about doing away with nuclear energy and fracking. You’ve got Bernie Sanders talking about letting criminals and terrorists vote from jail cells. It doesn’t matter what you think about any of that, or if there are good arguments — talking about that is not how you win a national election. It’s not how you become a majoritarian party. […] Here’s another stupid thing: Democrats talking about free college tuition or debt forgiveness. I’m not here to debate the idea. What I can tell you is that people all over this country worked their way through school, sent their kids to school, paid off student loans. They don’t want to hear this shit.”
In that same Vox.com interview, Carville said he was “scared to death” about the 2020 election because “the turnout in the Iowa caucus was below what we expected, what we wanted, [and] Trump’s approval rating is probably as high as it’s been. This is very bad…. I’ll just say it this way: The fate of the world depends on the Democrats getting their shit together and winning in November. We have to beat Trump. And so far, I don’t like what I see.”
Carville’s attitude grew much more optimistic after Joe Biden became the front-runner for the Democrats’ presidential nomination in March 2020. On April 5, Carville said the following about Biden’s chances of beating the incumbent Donald Trump in November: “A lot’s going to have to happen to him [Biden] if he’s going to lose this election, because if he just stands there and does nothing, he’s going to win.”
During an April 8, 2020 appearance on MSNBC’s The 11th Hour, Carville stated that Biden would “wipe out” Trump in November: “First of all, he [Trump] won [in 2016] with 46.1%. He’s literally lost 95% of the elections that have taken place between the time of his election and right now. His polling numbers are going down, and they’re awful. Usually, in a crisis [i.e., a reference to the coronavirus pandemic that had killed tens of thousands of Americans] – I mean, Jimmy Carter was at 67% in the Iran hostage crisis. The prime minister of Italy is over 70%. I’ll bet you 30 governors in the United States are over 70%. I’m totally, totally unimpressed by President Trump’s political prowess. I have absolutely no fear…. [I]f we go to post in November anything close to a level playing field, it’s going to be a Democratic wipeout. People are not going to vote for four more years of this.”
In a May 6, 2020 appearance on MSNBC, Carville continued to drive home that same theme. He also said it was an opportune moment to “end the scourge of Trumpism in this country forever”:
“Every poll, we’re ahead. There’s nothing but overwhelming evidence. Look what his campaign is doing. They’re a pack of grifters. His campaign manager got two condos, a Ferrari, a yacht, a Range Rover, and they’re all just fleecing the campaign. This is all about making money, and they’re going in there and giving him fake polls … This whole thing is like a crumbling empire right before your eyes. Everybody is trying to take everything that can get on the way out. And they’re trying to prop him up so they all can make money. […]
“[T]hey were going to lose before this [coronavirus pandemic] hit. They’re just going to lose worse now, and they all know it. And they’re all getting profiles written about themselves. I saw Blaise Pascal, the campaign manager, whatever his name is all over The New York Times magazine posing for pictures. The whole thing is gone. […]
“They’re all fat. They’re all rich. They’re all scamming. They’re all making money. My advice is get ready, hit them, hit them, and hit them again because it don’t matter if the Dow was 35,000. He’s not going to win. He wasn’t going to win when unemployment was 3.5%. He’s certainly not going to win now. But the idea is not just to beat him. It is to end the scourge of Trumpism in this country forever, and we can do that. It is within our grasp right now. Right now. They’re just fleecing this thing. All they’re trying to do is make money right now. They know what’s going on. Everybody knows what is happening in this country.”
In a May 21, 2020 podcast interview, Carville made the following remarks:
In a March 3, 2021 appearance on MSNBC, Carville, reacting to the rumor that wealthy seniors in Key Largo had received vaccinations in mid-January, said: “The [Florida Governor Ron] DeSantis thing favoring wealthy people getting the vaccine, no one’s surprised. They want the tax code to favor wealthy people. They want the entire system to be rigged in favor of wealthy people. So why wouldn’t someone try to rig the vaccine to be in favor of wealthy people? It is totally consistent with modern Republican philosophy that wealthy people get to cut in line because the fact that they are wealthy makes them virtuous themselves. That’s even a whole branch, the fact that you are wealthy means that God loves you, and God must surely want wealthy white people to be first in line to get the vaccine. I mean, it makes total sense if you think like they do, doesn’t it?”
In October 2021, Politico asked Carville why he was campaigning so aggressively and lending his name to so many fundraising emails for Virginia gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe. He replied: “Because I’m an email-signing slut.” By that point, Carville since mid-July had signed 47 different fundraising emails for the McAuliffe campaign, which claimed that those emails had generated approximately $500,000 in contributions.
On the February 3, 2022 episode of his podcast Politics War Room with James Carville and Al Hunt, Carville, while discussing with his co-host the idea of banning unvaccinated people from interstate flights or bus routes, suddenly exposed the depth of his frustration and anger toward the unvaccinated: “I wish [what] they’d do is pass a law to make you immune from liability if you punch some unvaccinated person right in the face, is which I’d really like to do. If you ask me, you know, what’s my first reaction to you if you’re not vaccinated and you don’t have any medical reason not to be? You’re a piece of shit. Okay? I ought to just punch you right in the goddamned face. That’s the way I look at these people.” Carville’s co-host responded simply, “Agreed.”
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