I learned about an upcoming HBO project with relevance to the Boston political world, Recount, recently. Following a showing of John Adams, I was paying partial attention to the promo that came on next. I heard talk about an election and saw red-headed Dennis Leary flamboyantly opining about politics. Two words came into my head: Michael Whouley.
When I looked up the project, I discovered that Recount was a story about the 2000 election and that Leary was indeed playing Whouley. What fabulous casting!
I profiled Whouley in the Boston Phoenix back in 1999.
“It was here, in the 1970s, when the new John Hancock Tower was shedding plate-glass windows, that a young, opportunistic Michael Whouley rushed to pick up the shards of broken glass and attach them to pieces of wood, which he then sold to tourists as souvenirs…In 1992, Whouley became one of the first operatives to sign on with the Clinton campaign, as its national field director. Only in his early 30s, he was already a hardened political battler. A graduate of Boston College and BC High, he’d made his name locally during Joseph Timilty’s unsuccessful run for mayor in 1979, when he came in to the Timilty campaign offering to handle Dorchester’s Ward 15. A field coordinator named Thomas Menino oversaw Whouley’s work.
‘He told us he had a lot of friends and that he could get a lot of votes for us,’ Mayor Menino recalls. ‘He was able to produce — even in a losing campaign. He had it in his blood.’
Whouley’s instincts were winning in 1992, when he orchestrated a Clinton victory in the Florida straw poll during the primary campaign. Baker, who joined the Clinton team during the general election, remembers Whouley’s early decision to go with Clinton as a risk that paid off. “Michael made a conscious decision to be with Clinton at a time when a lot of people were with Tsongas,” he says. Whouley is credited with getting Clinton on television early on the night of the New Hampshire primary and setting the tone of how the election results were interpreted. Remember that Tsongas actually won, but it was Clinton who garnered attention as the ‘Comeback Kid.’
The 1992 New Hampshire primary brought Whouley and company into contact with another key member of the Gore team — Kiki Moore. Moore, who served until last week as the press secretary of Gore’s 2000 campaign, is also a member of the Dewey Square Group. She met Whouley while serving as a flack for the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC), the organization that helped Clinton craft his approach to politics.”