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Pioneering GOP Consultant John Deardourff Dies at 61

By Patricia Sullivan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 28, 2004; Page B06

John Deardourff, 61, a Republican political consultant who helped orchestrate President Gerald R. Ford's late surge in 1976's presidential election, died of cancer Dec. 24 at his home in McLean.

Mr. Deardourff and Douglas L. Bailey -- operating as Bailey, Deardourff and Associates -- were among the first national political consultants. They specialized in working for moderate and progressive Republican candidates. They worked as do-it-all consultants on more than 70 primary and general election campaigns, providing detailed schedules, cash-flow charts, strategies and tactics.

With partner Douglas L. Bailey, John Deardourff, shown in 1978, helped President Gerald Ford make up ground in the 1976 race. (The Washington Post)

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At one point in the late 1970s, 11 of the country's 19 Republican governors, including the governor of Puerto Rico, were clients of the firm.

The Washington Post Magazine in 1977 called Mr. Deardourff and Bailey "the two hottest hired guns the Grand Old Party can boast." Their campaign and media planning, the magazine wrote, was so disciplined and detailed that it "would impress a Prussian general."

The pair joined the Ford presidential campaign in August 1976 when the president was 20 points behind in the polls.

Their television ads featured an upbeat campaign song, "I'm Feeling Good About America," and chipped away at Jimmy Carter's lack of national experience with a series of "man-on-the-street interviews." The ads were widely credited with creating a surge in the polls for Ford, who won 48 percent of the popular vote and 240 electoral votes to Carter's 50.1 percent of the popular vote and 297 electoral votes.

Mr. Deardourff left the firm in 1992 after 25 years but continued to provide advertising for a series of judicial campaigns that reversed the political complexion of the elected Supreme Court of Texas, from predominantly Democrat in 1988 to entirely Republican by 2000.

"He was gentlemanly to a fault," said Bailey, who now works for a nonprofit voter turnout organization called Freedom's Answer. "He was relaxed and in that sense was very reassuring in the political world. No matter how tense things would get, John was absolutely even keel."

In addition to his work for individual candidates, Mr. Deardourff participated in ballot-issue campaigns, including two to prevent casino gambling in Miami Beach and four that raised property taxes to underwrite the art museum, zoo, botanical gardens and science museum in St. Louis.

John Dudley Deardourff was born in Greenville, Ohio, and graduated from Wabash College in Indiana. In 1957, he received a master's degree from Tufts University's Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, then moved to Washington to work as a staff aide for several congressmen.

In 1977, Mr. Deardourff was a fellow at the Institute of Politics at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Governmen, and in 1979 a Conroy Fellow at St. Paul's School in Concord, N.H.

Mr. Deardourff was a board member of the Children's Defense Fund, the League of Conservation Voters, the National Environmental Trust, Public Voice and the Women's Campaign Research Fund. In 1986, the National Women's Political Caucus gave him its "Good Guy Award," which honors men who support women in politics.

Mr. Deardourff was a volunteer at the Phillips Collection, where he served as an adviser to the board of trustees in the 1980s. His other passions were tennis and travel.

His marriage to Mary Jane McFerran ended in divorce.

Survivors include his wife of 34 years, Elisabeth Griffith, headmistress of the Madeira School, of McLean; two daughters from his first marriage, Anne Sinsheimer of Charlotte and Katherine Wordsman of Bedford, N.Y.; two children from his second marriage, Megan Deardourff of Washington and John David Deardourff, a student at Davidson College in North Carolina; two brothers; and four grandchildren.

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