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 …
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, where he currently teaches 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.”
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Further Reading: “James Carville” (CNN.com, DemocracyCorps.com, Ballotpedia.org, Britannica.com); “Carville and Matalin Part Ways With CNN” (NY Times, 1-29-2013); “Democratic Political Strategist James Carville Wows Tulane Students During First Class” (Nola.com, 9-28-2009); “James Carville Brandishes Catholic Credentials” (CatholicExchange.com, 5-30-2001); “Liberal and Catholic: 12 Questions for James Carville” (American Magazine, 7-12-2014); “Carville: Trump Is ‘Pretty Stupid When It Comes to Politics’” (The Hill, 8-14-2016); “James Carville: The Republican Party Is Committing Suicide” (Vanity Fair, 9-1-2016).