But Mr. Davis, 50, a jacket-and-tie kind of guy with a runner’s build who stands out in the typically rumpled world of political operatives, has won upsets before. As deputy manager of Bob Dole’s 1996 campaign, for instance, he gained a come-from-behind victory at a Florida straw poll in part by staging an elaborate reception with Mr. Dole’s wife, Elizabeth.
“I bought, literally, thousands of dollars of Godiva chocolate,” he recalled.
A come-from-behind victory at a Florida straw poll? Really? Sounds like a comeback of Truman-esque proportions.
Come to think of it, why was the overwhelming favorite for the nomination in '96 even in a position to have to mount a comeback?
Update: Politico's Roger Simon actually covers some of this ground in his book Show Time:
The rules for the Orlando straw poll were stricter than the Iowa rules: You actually had to be a Republican from Florida in order to vote. But the candidates -- especially Bob Dole -- campaigned for votes in the same tried and true way: with bribes. Delegates to the convention got free Godiva chocolates, bath oils, fruit baskets, hotel rooms, booze, food and dance lessons, all courtesy of the Dole campaign. Having been embarrassed in Iowa (even though it was a meaningless embarrassment) Dole was determined not to be embarrassed again. And so he spent around $2 million campaigning for an event that would elect not a single delegate to the Republican National Convention in 1996. And although he would later bitterly complain about running out of money during the primaries, his spending was now profligate: He rented the entire seventh floor of the swanky Peabody Court hotel and hired scores of staff. His video featuring his terrible war wound was running 24 hours a day on the hotel’s closed-circuit TV channel. He spent $20,000 to rent a parking lot across the street that he called “Camp Bob,” where there were live bands, games for the kids, free food, and a man on stilts juggling Indian clubs. In the food tent there were also 10 TV sets set up running his war wound video as people ate barbecue pork sandwiches and corn on the cob. Everything was very high-tech. All of Dole’s staff was beepered, cell-phoned, laptopped, wired, and hooked-up. Dole hosted a dinner in the hotel ballroom and 800 people showed up. Which sounded like a pretty good crowd until you realized there were about 3,000 delegates, which means some 2,200 people had passed up a free meal rather than listen to Bob Dole give a speech.