GOP Pollster Robert Teeter Dies at 65

Robert Teeter (search), an influential Republican pollster who worked in several presidential races and was a longtime member of former President Bush's (search) campaign brain trust, has died after a battle with cancer. He was 65.

Teeter died Sunday night at his home in Ann Arbor, his company said Monday.

Teeter played an important role in American politics over the last 30 years, working with Republican presidents beginning with Richard Nixon (search) and serving as national chairman for Bush's unsuccessful 1992 re-election campaign.

He also handled polling for Bush in his 1980 presidential run and was a top adviser in the 1988 campaign that landed him the White House. More recently, Teeter was involved in the discussions that led to Dick Cheney (search) becoming George W. Bush's running mate in 2000.

Former Secretary of State James A. Baker III, who recalled fly fishing trips with Teeter and each of their sons, called Teeter's death "a great loss" for American politics.

"Although he worked with four presidents and innumerable senators and governors, he never lost the values and the standards that he grew up with," said Democratic pollster Peter Hart, a friend for 30 years. "He represented core American values."

Teeter was president of Market Opinion Research before forming his current consulting and research firm, Ann Arbor-based Coldwater Corp. He also conducted a national polling program for NBC News and The Wall Street Journal together with Hart.

Karl Rove, President Bush's chief political strategist, said he knew Teeter for 20 years. "He was a really gentle soul and a really kind heart. Such obvious and complete integrity that you trusted him right from the beginning. He was always an astute observer of politics."

Baker said Teeter was instrumental in bringing him in to national politics during then-President Ford's 1976 campaign. Teeter and Cheney, at the time Ford's chief of staff, together brought Baker in to chair Ford's campaign, Baker said.

Teeter remained close to Bush during his years as vice president under President Reagan, but rejected an offer of a White House job after the 1988 election, choosing instead to stay closer to his roots in Michigan.

Charles Black, a veteran GOP strategist and presidential campaign adviser, said Teeter was a leader to "a whole generation of Republicans."

He cited the elder Bush's 1988 campaign as one in which Teeter had a particularly strong impact.

"There was a time there when the then-vice president was 17 points behind Michael Dukakis," Black recalled. Teeter helped turn the tide by pinpointing Dukakis' vulnerabilities and helping Bush use them to talk about issues, rather than launch personal attacks, he said.

Despite Teeter's success as a pollster, the 1992 Bush campaign that he ran was criticized at times as lacking leadership. The campaign underestimated an insurgent Pat Buchanan candidacy during the early primaries and went on to lose to Bill Clinton.

Teeter's work with Hart on the NBC News and Wall Street Journal polls evoked respect "on both sides of the political aisle," said Tim Russert, NBC News' Washington bureau chief.

"You could always take Bob Teeter's word to the bank," said Albert R. Hunt, The Wall Street Journal's executive Washington editor.

Teeter is survived by his wife, Elizabeth, and their two children.

A memorial service is scheduled for Friday in Ann Arbor. A private burial will be held Saturday in Coldwater, Teeter's hometown.