Pat Caddell 2008 (copy)

Patrick Caddell, a former Democratic pollster, FOX News commentator and Hanahan resident, passed away Saturday. File/Robert Behre/Staff

During his last time talking to a College of Charleston class, pollster Pat Caddell — who helped put Jimmy Carter and Donald Trump in the White House — said he was sorry for the messy state of American politics.

"He apologized for what his generation is leaving the current generation," said political scientist Kendra Stewart, a working partner at the College of Charleston. 

Watergate, the explosion of Washington, D.C., lobbyists, screaming media and corporate influence of Congress — it was everything he hated, she said.

She described him as somewhat "gloom and doom."

"But he did leave them with the message: 'You are the only ones who can change this,' " she said. "That it is up to you to change the system." 

Caddell, who more recently was known as a face on Fox News, died Saturday in Charleston at age 68 after suffering a stroke.

Known for railing against a political system he saw as increasingly favoring elites over the masses, Caddell was the quiet outsider who delved deep into poll data, telling Donald Trump on election night that exit numbers showed he would win the White House.

They spoke hours before all the returns were in, she said.

"Trump didn't believe him," she said, adding, Caddell "could understand where the trend was going."

Caddell was born in Rock Hill and attended Harvard University but lived locally in Hanahan so he could be near his extended family, which is deeply rooted in the Charleston area. His father ended up here after his career in the Coast Guard.

While Caddell lived in a Hanahan neighborhood, some of the biggest names in the media have already shown an interest in the funeral plans — actor Warren Beatty and pundits Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity and Steve Bannon, a partner in Caddell's work with Trump. 

Stewart said Caddell had friends across the political spectrum and that his politics were not that odd, favoring people over influence.

It was not out of place to have California Gov. Jerry Brown call him at home, she said.  

While it was his work helping to push Carter, a one-term Georgia governor, to the White House post-Vietnam in 1976 that signified his early mark on politics, he did influence Trump's rise as well, on the populist message.

He explained his breakup with the Democratic vision by saying it was no longer “a party of the people,” but had been hijacked by elites, the well-educated, Wall Street and interest groups, his press obituary said.

As the story goes, the phrase of actually calling the media "the enemy of the people" originated from Caddell's lips. 

Stewart said Caddell once used the term in a speech years ago, then again later during a conversation with Trump whom he'd known for some time.

The future president then adopted the phrase into his rhetoric.

She said he didn't see much difference between Trump and Carter, since both were about empowering the people.

Democratic businesswoman Linda Ketner of Charleston met Caddell around the time she ran for Congress in 2008. While he did not formally advise the campaign, they struck up a long-term friendship, with her remembering him Monday as "brilliant and quirky."

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"He talks faster than anybody on the planet," Ketner said, adding his ideas came at about "six zillion" every 30 seconds.

He did hold that the Democratic Party in 2008 was not paying attention to the interests of working people, "and I agreed with him," she said.

Caddell had largely stepped away from a lot of the political polling he was doing, Stewart said, after Joe Biden's presidential run in the late 1980s. About 10 years ago, Caddell took part in the school's bully pulpit series and the two struck up a friendship that later expanded into political research.

The last time Caddell spoke at the college was during the 2018 spring semester. He also spoke to cadets at The Citadel, where Mallory Factor invited him in for his class on conservatism.

Factor said one of Caddell's life themes was that he was a Democrat but that the Democratic Party "left" him.

"He had a way of infuriating everyone he worked with," Factor added.

After spending a period of time in Los Angeles after leaving Washington, he became a writer and producer on the television show "West Wing" with Aaron Sorkin, as well as consulting on Hollywood films, including Beatty's "Bulworth." But family was the main draw back to Charleston, Stewart said.

For the current White House, Stewart said Caddell's views on Trump were still in flux.

"I think he was disappointed that the change he talked about had not come about, as of yet," she said.

Caddell passed away not quite fully finishing a book on disaffected voters and even if and how a third party is viable in the U.S.

Stewart still wants to see it published.

Reach Schuyler Kropf at 843-937-5551. Follow him on Twitter at @skropf47.

Political Editor

Schuyler Kropf is The Post and Courier political editor. He has covered every major political race in South Carolina dating to 1988, including for U.S. Senate, governorship, the Statehouse and Republican and Democratic presidential primaries.

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