Thomas Riehle, an admired Democratic pollster, died unexpectedly on Jan. 3 at his home in Washington, D.C. He was 58.
While the cause of his death is unclear, Riehle’s friend and fellow community activist Janice Gordon said in a phone interview that Riehle’s wife, Barbara, said her husband was not feeling well and was tired the day he died. Riehle was also grieving his only son, Peter, who died at age 22 in Bethesda, Md., on Jan. 2, the day before Riehle’s death.
“Over the course of a 35-year career, Thomas Riehle amassed an enviable record of accurately predicting the results of elections, both presidential and congressional, and worked with some of the biggest names in political and market research,” Riehle’s former co-worker and friend Evan Biddy wrote in an email.
Riehle gained a reputation as an accurate and knowledgeable public opinion researcher, contributing to polling used by the Cook Political Report. Tributes from political figures, including former White House senior adviser David Axelrod, demonstrated Riehle’s reputation among top campaign advisers.
Heartsick over the loss of Thom Riehle, one of the most insightful opinion researchers I have known, and just a hell of a good guy.
— David Axelrod (@davidaxelrod) January 7, 2015
Before launching his career in public opinion research, Riehle worked as a journalist for The Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, Businessweek, The Economist and The Associated Press. According to his LinkedIn page, Riehle was the National Journal’s associate editor from 1981 to 1988.
Then, Riehle switched from being a political reporter to a politico himself, diving into public opinion research. "Thom's transition from journalism to polling was sought after he thought rather than reporting, he wanted to be a part of the process," Biddy wrote in an email to CQ Roll Call Wednesday. Biddy said he and Riehle were "a two-man team" of researchers and had worked together since 2001.
After working at Hart-Riehle-Hartwig Research, where he was a partner, for 13 years, Riehle joined Ipsos Public Affairs, an international research firm, in 2001. Four years later he founded RT Strategies, with Republican V. Lance Tarrance Jr. RT Strategies gained a reputation for accurate research and provided polling for the Cook Political Report.
In 2010, Riehle left RT Strategies to become senior vice president for public affairs at YouGov, a global research and consulting organization. He had most recently founded his own firm, Riehle Research, in 2014.
Outside of the political sphere, Riehle was active in his community as vice chairman of the Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian Community Action Group, a rehabilitation facility for drug and alcohol abuse in Southeast D.C. Riehle worked with the group for the past two decades.
“We’re a small organization but we’re doing a lot of big things and he saw that, he always did,” Gordon, who serves as CAG’s president, said Wednesday. “He always saw the big picture.”
Riehle worked closely with Gordon’s husband, Harold, who founded the organization in 1988. Riehle helped organize activities, launch their main facility, rally local politicians around CAG’s mission, and raise support and awareness about the organization.
“He was a game-changer,” said Gordon. “He could bring people together.”
Gordon described Riehle as a loving family man, who was often spotted walking hand-in-hand with his wife around the Capitol Hill neighborhood. She said he was “compassionate, forceful but in a very gentle way … And in terms of how he could resolves things, he could look at the problem and then just come up with solutions very quickly. "
In lieu of flowers, Riehle’s family is asking that donations be sent to CAG. According to Biddy, a Mass for both Thomas and Peter Riehle will be celebrated at 11 a.m. on Thursday at St. Sebastian’s Church in Providence, R.I. A memorial service for Thomas and Peter Riehle in D.C. will be held later in January.
Riehle is survived by his wife Barbara; his daughter Anna, three brothers and three sisters.
Correction Jan. 9, 1:40 p.m.
A previous version of this article misspelled the name of the public affairs office that Riehle joined in 2001.
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