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The Daily Need

Interview with Phil Davison, the man behind one of the most intense stump speeches ever

Updated | 4:50 p.m. Phil Davison is a councilman in the village of Minerva, Ohio, population 3,934. He has four degrees from the University of Akron — two bachelors degrees, in history and sociology, and two masters degrees, in communication and public administration. He’s worked in factories, at the local Target and, for eight years, as a bailiff at the Stark County Court of Common Pleas. He left that position last year, and has been unable to find work since.

“I’m looking for something right now, to see what turns up,” Davison said in an interview from his home in Minerva. “I’ve been turned down for minimum wage jobs.” He makes a $260-a-month stipend as a village councilman, which adds up to roughly $3,120 a year. “I certainly can’t live on that, but that’s all I’m doing right now.”

That, and running for office. Davison, a lifelong Republican, sought the local party’s nomination for treasurer of Stark County in Ohio on Wednesday night, his third run for countywide office. He has lost all three times.  “It’s difficult,” Davison said. “It takes money, and I don’t have much of that.”

But what Davison lacks in funding, he apparently makes up for in passion. His speech to the Stark County Republican Committee Wednesday night was recorded by a local political blogger working for The Huffington Post’s citizen journalism initiative and posted online, where, unsurprisingly, it went viral. Some of the Internet’s most influential political blogs, including MSNBC’s First Read and Taegan Goddard’s Political Wire, posted the video as well.

In his first post-fame interview, Davison told Need to Know that he was baffled by all the attention. He wasn’t especially angry when he gave the speech, and nothing in particular had set him off, he said. Afterward, he received a polite reception from the audience, and when he lost the nomination, Davison approached the winner, shook his hand and said “Good luck.”

“Some people call it fanaticism. I call it being a believer,” Davison said. He confessed, though, that some amount of frustration with his personal situation — his inability to find and keep even a minimum-wage job, the crumbling of his youthful ideals into hard-bitten, world-weary pragmatism — may have informed his speech.

“I’m living what I spoke last night,” Davison said. “People are frustrated out there. People want change. I really sense that our country is really looking for people or a party or an idea to get involved with, and I’m one of those people too. I want to get involved. That’s why I ran for treasurer.”

Somehow, like so many meandering twenty-somethings, Davison never quite figured out what he wanted in life. “My career idea was to get out of college and make a difference in people’s lives,” Davison said. “I want to help the people who have nothing. I identify with those people. I’m the son of a mailman. My father was a mailman, my mother worked as a clerk for minimum wage the bulk of her life. And I said, you know, I want to help people who don’t have much. And I got out of college with that idealism, and I said, ‘Let’s see what I can do.’”

Of his situation now, at age 39, he added: “You would think a guy with four college degrees isn’t working blue-collar jobs in factories. And that’s what I’ve done.”

As for his politics, Davison has served as a Republican member of the Minerva Council for 13 years, but, despite the boiling anger that characterized his speech, describes himself as a “liberal.” He also identifies with the activist energy of the Tea Party movement, and proposes forming “a new radical branch of the Republican Party that does bring in the Tea Party activists, and that does bring in, perhaps, liberal Republicans.”

Of the party as a whole, he added: “I think the days of the mainstream Republican need to change.”

What’s next for Davison remains unclear. He’s considering becoming a teacher, he said, to help kids “learn about the world” — “I’m not saying I’m an expert on it,” he cautioned — and to “tell them to ‘follow your dreams. Whatever gets you excited in life, go for it.’”

He wouldn’t foreclose another run for office, either.

“My speech last night — I knew it might be a little over the edge, but that’s how I felt at the time,” Davison said. “If it spurs someone to go on and say, ‘You know what, I want to go up there and talk like that too, I want to make a difference, I want to get involved in my community.’ If it affects one person in a positive way, then it was worth it.”

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  • Demosthenes Locke

    It wasn’t so much the content of his speech. That was actually quite reasonable. It was the *delivery*. It was SO over the top, with his voice cracking and breaking like a kid going through puberty, people in the audience were actually laughing. I think some were confused as to whether this was for real, or some kind of really warped stunt. He seemed to calm down a little near the end, but I think it was mostly because his throat started to give out from all the screaming and cracking, and he was starting to hyperventilate.

    If he had just delivered the same speech calmly but intensely, it might have worked. But the angry “win one for the Gipper” combined with the “not gonna take it anymore” scene from “Network” just didn’t fly.

    And that critique comes from my Bachelor’s in Theatre.

  • Shanti2


  • gigero

    Great interview! He actually sounds like a genuinely nice guy, which I never expected, based on his hilariously over the top speech

  • SSchwartz

    U of Akron might want to reconsider that Masters in Communication…

  • guest

    That man is either on drugs or needs drugs.

  • C.

    As Patty Berglund would say: “Weird!”

  • Delasso

    Try switching to decaf!

  • Lc21498


  • Po Savea

    Thank you Phil Davidson for the dramatic comedy. You are such a drama queen, I meant “Pragmatic figure”.

  • Winkytalk

    8 months out of work and still supports the GOP

  • Jim Fitzpatrick


  • Gussy

    What a wanker!

  • Chrispei

    dude is tweaked on coke, crack and/or meth.

  • Chrispei

    ” … IN A VAN — DOWN BY THE RIVER!!!!”

  • another guest

    That was embarrassing.

  • Brian

    A king among men. I think that qualifies him for some write-in votes.

  • anon

    yeah..makes sense to me..

    obama running things for almost 2 years and dems running everything for the past 4 years…and follow the charts and notice what has happened…

    GOP is the only solution to unemployment and fixing our economy

  • Velvetpie

    I’m always fascinated by people with absolutely no self-awareness. His words were perfectly fine, but his “being” is truly bizarre and off-putting. Poor guy; some nice person should have the guts to tell him that he comes off as nuttier than squirrel sh*t (and THAT’S why he can’t find a job). He strikes me as “passionate” in the same way Manson was “passionate”.

  • joe grassia

    who in the hell stole his ice cream.

  • John Forrest Tomlinson

    If my life was as rough as that guy’s I might sound like that too.

    That said, I wonder if he understands the connection between Republican policies and the current economic situation we’re in. Massive job losses under GWB, and a decline in real income for many people under his administration.

    Thinks have not improved since Obama took office, but the huge unemployment spike was from Bush.

  • Ed from East Canton

    I served on a jury and Phil Davison was our bailiff. It was a particularly difficult trial and went above and beyond the call of duty to make this experience bearable.

    I’m not sure what all the fuss is about. Does anyone remember any of Dennis Kucinich’s political rants throughout his political career? This clip seems rather tame to me in comparison.

    I only know Phil from the trial, but with us, he was always kind, witty and always had the interests of his jurors at heart.

    I wish him well, and I would vote for him if he ever runs again for countywide office.

  • Catracho1972

    “Cocaine is a hell of a drug!!”

  • Catracho1972

    “Cocaine is a hell of a drug!!”

  • Tom_can_2000

    I think he’s a crediblguy who feels things deeply – and he obviously is dealing with considerable personal problems – which overwhelmed him at a difficult time. Hang in there, Phil.

  • Soundjata

    Somebody give this guy a hug…and a job.

  • rogerinla

    good one! keep the comedy coming.

  • Timmytom

    booo-hoooo. f this lunatic republican’t

  • Glitterus

    My life is made more positive by this speech. Thank you!

  • Mack

    Doesn’t sound all that smart. No wonder he gets turned down for minimum wage jobs…sounds like noone wants him to go postal (get it—father reference!)

  • Anonymous

    Yes he’s a nice guy. He is also quite clearly mentally ill. I hope his friends and relatives can get him out of the spotlight and get him some help.

  • Joesmith1

    I am a liberal. I voted for Obama. That being said, you are completely wrong. Look at the unemployment numbers under Obama – they are the worst numbers in the past 40 years. Bush has been out of the White House for almost 2 years. It is time to stop blaming him. The private sector is afraid to hire because the tax bill they are about to get under the current administration is going to be astronomical. We need to give gauranteed tax cuts to the private sector so they can have the flexibility to hire again. Socialism and big government doesn’t create jobs, it creates dependence and fear.

  • Stanleystosh

    If tax cuts were the cure for our economic ills we’d be living in the land of milk and honey. Taxes have been cut by every president since George Bush I (who did indeed raise them).

    Corporations already pay an effective tax rate of 0%. How much lower do you think we ought to go? Shall we pay them for existing?

  • slimandnone

    He has a masters degree in communications? That’s just wrong. A deaf and dumb mute could give a better speech than this on-the verge-of-a-nervous-breakdown psycho.

    Whatever chance he may have had of winning the nomination was snuffed out by this intense, disturbing presentation. He certainly didn’t help his cause and should have stayed in bed.

  • Please don’t hurt me, Phil

    Ed, perhaps you didn’t watch the video. It’s an out of body experience and Davison definitely earned 16 minutes of fame instead of the standard 15.

  • John Forrest Tomlinson

    Facts are simple things to check, so let’s see about the facts first.

    First, let’s look at my claim that the bulk of the problem happened under Bush. Here is that info:

    We see unemployment climbed over 4% under Bush, and 1% under Obama.

    So I was right about that.

    Second, your claim that unemployment is the highest in the last 40 years. It’s close to that, and it’s way way too high. But unemployment was 10.2% in late 1982, which is a little higher than the current 9.6%.

    So you’re not really right about that, but it’s almost a tie.

    You’re entitled to your own opinions but not your own facts.

    On opinions, it seems to me that if you look at the first chart I posted, it’s clear that Bush trashed the economy and Obama is NOT fixing it. You can make whatever conclusion want. But start with the facts.

    ” The private sector is afraid to hire because the tax bill they are about to get under the current administration is going to be astronomical.”

    This is a lie on two levels – there is not evidence of an upcoming astronomical tax bill other than right winger talking about it. The only likely tax increase is taxes on the top 2% of wealthy *individuals* (not businesses). And even if that happens, taxes will still be lower for those people than they were 20 years ago. They are the lowest now for those people in the last 60 years! Lower now then under Reagan.

    And the second lie is that that reason hiring is down is due to a huge lack of consumer demand.

    I also think you’re lying about being a liberal. At least on economics, you’re spouting right wing talking points. Where do you get your news? Is it from Fox? Or Rush? At best, i assume it’s the Wall Street Journal.

  • Obrtre

    Chrispei For The Win!

  • Edmichaels4061

    I find fascinating all the comments alleging drug abuse or mental illness from people who have never met Phil Davison. I spent about six weeks with Phil, when he was the bailiff for our jury, Trust me, he is neither a drug abuser, nor is he mentally ill.

    The lesson here is you never know when someone will catch you in a vulnerable moment and then post it on the internet.

    As I stated in an earlier comment, there is nothing extraordinary here when compared to Dennis Kucinich and who can forget Howard Dean’s famous meltdown? I never once suspected either of drug abuse or mental illness. Just politicians doing what politicians doing what politicians do, Maybe the difference here is that Phil is not a Democrat.

  • Loomjohn

    Excellant point by point respone backed up by facts.

  • PeppermintStarlight

    I feel bad for the poor guy, but dang! He talks like Forrest Gump, except with a voice control problem (and a lot more anger).

  • Mark Turner

    I felt truly inspired… here with some added awesomeness – the odyssey remix

  • Beachlawyer

    We see unemployment climbed over 4% under Bush, and 1% under Obama.

    Can you read your own data?? It was at 4.5% in Jan. 2000 and 5.4% in Jan. 2008. It is now at 9.6%!!!

  • Ruben Lai

    this guy is a fucking nut but i gotta admire him for his passion and dedication.

  • John Forrest Tomlinson

    Bush was President from Jan 2001 to Jan 2009.

    Are you ignorant or deceitful?

    I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you’re just ignorant.

    And I have to take the opportunity to correct something I wrote earlier – i meant “The second lie is that that reason hiring is down is due to worry or taxes. It’s clearly down due to a huge lack of consumer demand.”

  • Russ Selle

    I respect the mans passion and dedication, though if presented with some greater control I suspect would have gathered a more favorable outcome.

  • sv

    Well, to be fair, Kucinich and Dean have been ridiculed by people all over the political spectrum plenty, and there was “Dean should be institutionalized” snickering too. Davidson does come across as pretty unhinged during the speech, when he knew he’d be in the spotlight. But you’re right that often we’re too quick to judge people they don’t really know. He seems like a nice enough guy. Long-term unemployment can be extremely distressing.

  • Daphnezuniga

    what I am taking away from this is-

    The guy bought HARD into claims that completing ‘a’ college degree is suposed to be a automatic ticket into a white-collar lucrative career as a virtual ENTITLEMENT to the ”degree holder”,..
    and that completion of a degree at a easy local college in degree paths that are most notable for guaranteeing a degree to almost anyone who generally shows up-
    (pub relations / history/ sociology / communications- none requiring any technical capacity or subsequent LABOR)
    entitles him to a automatic white-collar existence as a shot-caller, presiding over the little people down at the factory, who are without his shining degrees..

    When you could not get a job after the FIRST degree from this bottom echelon rust-belt school, what made you think that THREE more degrees from the same place in more topics that do not bestow any actual commercially-valuable skillset would do the trick?

    This poor guy obviously has some ‘problems’, and frankly, any degree he manages is not going to get him in a position of authority, for long anyway..(note- something got him booted as a bailiff which requires you to simply ”stand around” as a skillset- wonder what that malfunction could be??)
    It sounds like he has one thing in common with most US politicians, in that he realized the one sure way for seriously troubled or delusional persons without a skill or trade, (or willingness to actually labor for a living) to get a constant unearned influx of cash=
    elective office,
    and he seems to have been pretty shrewd in setting his sights low enough (county treasurer) to a petty local, but professionally compensated, position that no serious politician pursues, and is almost exclusively sought by individuals who want to gain a govt paycheck, but cant find a tenured civil service job..

    He may act crazy, but there is clearly a method and purpose behind the madness.

  • wow

    He considers that “not especially” angry?

    This is the most perplexing 6 minutes of speech I’ve ever witnessed. It’s the political equivalent of going into a job interview and punching your potential employer in the face in a grossly misguided attempt to demonstrate how intense, dedicated and passionate you can be. I mean the guy just sounds like a ticking time bomb. Who shouts a quote by Albert Einstein?! And why, when addressing your fellow partisans, would you take such an aggressive tone in the first place? And then, when (much to my surprise) no one has even suggested that you calm down, scream that you will not apologize for that overly aggressive tone?

    I am a registered Republican (and have been in “times good and bad”…whatever the hell that’s supposed to mean) and as bizarre as I find the majority of what Phil Davidson is saying, I hope he’s right about one thing. This guy and the rest of the Tea Party nut jobs really should split off into their own ignorant, marginalized right wing political ghetto so the rest of us can engage in reasonable political discourse and compromise don’t have to walk around feeling embarrassed about sharing our party affiliation with misguided people who truly believe that “politics is winner take all.”

  • Jmoney24

    Trust me. He’s mentally ill. Anyone who has worked in the field can look at this guy’s behavior and his history and make some pretty quick judgments that would probably hold up under more extensive review. Did you really listen to this rant and believe that the response people are having is because he is not a Democrat? Wake up. No one cares that he is a Republican. That’s crazy as hell. That’s Phil Davison talk.

  • Appalled Canton Neighbor

    teacher? stay away from my kid and every breathing, self-respecting kid out there —- you need a mental hospital.

    To imagine that anyone would say: “You know what, I want to go up there and talk like that too” —- get a clue, the incompetence is unrivaled.

    Beyond comedy for the innate, this 6 minutes only serves to show what ignorance can accomplish before a audience.

    If this speech is not a hoax, it is the best marketing scheme for Toastmasters ….. check out your local chapter – and your self-evaluation in six months —- for less than a night out in Akron, much more will be accomplished than what “masters” degree you may have receieved in Communication.

  • Canton Neighbor

    In the history of the spoken word, this is the best 8-word evaluation

  • YounevergofullRT

    This is basically a guy running scams upon scams.

    The only diff between him and say harry reid or the Abramson beneficiaries, is that they are successful at scamming large sums of unearned cash, and once-prestigious posts/titles,

    While Davison has been utterly and totally unsuccessful at gaining entrance into the ranks of devious political payroll scammers-

    and he is very angry that a man with four worthless degrees in non-business related fields cannot scam him a bigger wad of taxpayer cash, to comport with the lifestyle he imagines for himself once the patronage ship docks at his doorstep.

    My goodness, this poor gent who has so far been relegated to a 13 year career attending once meeting a month for 300 bucks a pop, when he has so much more time available to be compensated for by some cadre of taxpayer!!.

  • CrashGrab

    This guy has a degree in communications? He needs to get a refund from that university. I could barely focus on the content of his speech because he was acting absolutely insane!

  • Elyhim

    Trickle down theory does not work pal. BTW the “astronomical” tax bill is the return to the same taxes under Clinton, you know the guy who fixed Reagan’s trickle down mess. Have to give Bush 1 credit though he called it voodoo economics. He was right, I think he was the last adult in the Republican party.

  • Luv2learn

    It’s good to hear from someone who knows the guy. Perhaps you can help him find someone to get him to Toastmasters or another place where he can get honest and caring feedback about how he’s coming across. It could help him get a better job too.

  • B_null

    He hasn’t found a job?
    Imagine yourself sitting across the desk from this guy in an interview . . .
    Scary stuff!

  • B_null

    He hasn’t found a job?
    Imagine yourself sitting across the desk from this guy in an interview . . .
    Scary stuff!

  • Floydareturbo

    wow…I might ask you “why are you a registered Republican?” I frankly don’t believe you if you term Tea Party Patriots as “nut jobs.”

  • shutupalready

    This guy is a complete loser. hahaha i bet he screams at his wife like that while beating her teeth out.

  • Shick

    Dude, this guy is awesome! I wish he were my life coach.

  • Shick

    Your screen name is that of an obscure Melrose Place actress. How can you hold yourself above this guy?

  • Shick

    Mutes can’t give speeches.

  • Shick

    PBS person, why are my replies showing up as individual threads?

  • Q_for_Quincy

    12k a year? That’s better than adjunct work. And for those of you who need it spelled out, this man makes more as a city councilmen than he would as a professor at a university. Now think about it this way, the people teaching college communication courses would be taking a step UP in pay by sitting on the city council in Minerva.

  • Ash

    This guy is neurotic. That’s no way to win an election!

  • Jacob Stohler

    He says not being able to find a job led to his attitude in the speech. But there’s no doubt his personality, as displayed in that speech, is a main contributor to his not finding a job.

  • Anonymous

    …a handjob. zingah!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Spence189

    It does sound like he’s right out of the WWE doesn’t he?

  • Matt

    Are You Crazy? Theres no way that a University Professor makes 12k a year. Minimum wage pays more than that.

  • Mr. Deej

    You’re crazy. Try Google (if you know how). College profs in US average around $70,000+ @ year.

  • J2

    No, Matt is Right. My husband is a professor and as an adjunct he made $2500 per course. Teach 2 courses a semester, 2 semesters a year and you made $10K annual. Oh, and you’re paying off your student loans and starting a family too. Yay.

  • passivereader

    I can’t add anything new, but a number of the comments were funny and the same things I thought as I watched.

  • NLR2010

    Your husband must work at the School of Hard Knocks then. I used to work at a university and had access to all of the records. Those folks were making a minimum of $60,000 a year. And that was just the 1st year assistant professors. $10k a year? Tell him he is getting ripped off. No one was a PhD makes that little as a professor.

  • Jay

    Can none of you read? He said ADJUNCT professor.

  • Jay

    I feel bad for the few honest, intelligent Republicans out there, because the Tea Party are literally too stupid to know how stupid they are… and they’re dragging the entire Republican party down with them.

  • Jay

    Davison’s misdirected aggression is awkward, moreso because it seems, to me, staged (evidenced by his scripted apology for his tone- nobody was questioning his tone. If it was in his script, that means he likely planned to go up there and act furious and angry. Nice try, but it just came off creepy).

  • Wardawg31

    Repeat after me everyone: “That’s better than adjunct work.”

    Adjunct professor (AKA) a professor who does not hold a permanent position at a particular college.

    Look it up on Wikipedia. /sarcasm off

  • MsLaura

    “Dems running everything for the past 4 years…” Oh right…except the PRESIDENCY. Just a minor role.

  • dnorth

    Let’s be fair, thick skulled idiots run the spectrum of politics. I feel just as sorry for moderate Democrats.

  • Perpendiclaruniverse


  • Barry331

    Look,you retards,”as an adjunct” means an ADJUNCT (or entry level)professor or teacher,which is what you START out as. You dont walk in the door teaching at the college level making big bucks.


  • Shiveringman

    Phil is funny..What can we say. He’s just upset that the mother ship left without him. I think aliens felt he belonged here.

  • truelai

    How about idiots? That suit you? Anyone who would have Sarah Palin as a leader of their party is an idiot.

  • truelai

    He reminds me of Austin Powers after he was unfrozen.

  • Eggman64

    I love the fact that he is passionate about wanting to change the GOP. A sense of realism needs to get injected into that group. I am not praising the Democrats, I am saying the republicans need to realize they are just as bad as the people they are condemning.

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  • Jasonclarkkent

    Um, I’m pretty sure he needs some *serious* professional mental help from a panel of psychologists.  How a person can be this mis-guided is hard to comprehend.  

    He could have presented the most concrete case ever written and no one would have backed him because, obviously, he is acting like a raving lunatic in his prime of insanity.  It’s truly sad (and frightening) that this interview seems to show he is completely unaware of any of the ways he was acting *completely* nuts.  Are there even words to describe this guy?

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  • guest

    Yeah…except the president can’t really move without Congress so…

  • Steve_heiser

    this guy gives bad speeches lol

  • ThomasC

    There is no way anyone would ever let this guy teach their kids.

  • Danna Stelpa Geirdal

    great speech !

  • do it

    hey, instead of arguing over stupid old crap how about we fix the Ellectoral College.

  • Dan Coleman-Graham

    WOW! I just watched your video and realized how messed up you are!

  • Dan Coleman-Graham

    You’re nuts!

  • Neo

    When did Howard Dean ever have a “meltdown”? He didn’t.

  • Edward Wedler


    There are several Toastmasters Clubs nearby that you can check out and consider joining to improve your communication and leadership skills in a positive environment.