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Jim Messina on Winning Elections

Written by Pete Talbot
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I’m not thrilled with some of the candidates he has chosen to work for but his record speaks for itself.

Montana boy Jim Messina, at least he used to call Montana home, has an article up at Politico. He’s been hanging out with Mick Jagger and winning elections for the Torries in the UK.

I met Messina in Missoula about 1993. He was running the mayoral campaign and I was trying to get someone elected to city council. His candidate won and mine lost, but enough on that.

He went on to win elections for Sen. Max Baucus and President Barack Obama. He was a senior staff member for Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY), Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND), Baucus and Obama. He’s been an advisor to campaigns around the country.

Here are a few of his insights:

Of all the ways of communicating to voters, using Facebook and other social media, was the most effective because it was often a message shared by their friends or others they trusted versus politicians and the media that they don’t trust. We found that the undecided voters were moving our way as a result.

… an emphasis on enlisting known friends and trusted influencers to share the campaign’s message–restoring some believability to political messaging for low-information voters.

Mick (Jagger) was right, of course. No matter where you go, successful election campaigns are always about the future, not the past.

(And in the U.S.) by demonstrating that the Democratic Party had moved beyond an old agenda and toward a platform of nurturing a vibrant global economy and making the United States the dominant player in it … (that’s how) President Clinton and President Obama won two elections each.

I have questions about his fourth point: “nurturing a vibrant global economy and making the United States the dominant player in it” may not be in the best interests of U.S. citizens, as the debate over TPP illustrates, and wasn’t that big a deciding factor for the winning candidates.

There are differences, too, in UK and U.S. campaigns. (There also seems to be a difference in whether to use periods in the initials UK and U.S.) Campaigns can’t buy TV or radio in the UK, and there are spending caps.  Gotta love that.

America needs serious campaign reform: first up is repealing Citizens United, followed by shortened campaign seasons, and caps on fundraising and spending. Actually, publicly financed campaigns are the only way to go, but don’t hold your breath.

So, until we change the rules (what few there are), we have to play by the rules, and Messina offers some excellent observations.

About the author

Pete Talbot

'Papa’ Pete Talbot is first and foremost a grandfather to five wonderful grandchildren. Like many Montanans, he has held numerous jobs over the years: film and video producer, a partner in a marketing and advertising firm, a builder and a property manager. He’s served on local and statewide Democratic Party boards. Pete has also been blogging at various sites for over a decade. Ping-pong and skiing are his favorite diversions. He enjoys bourbon.

3 Comments

  • Well, Buzz, you’re right. Messina was born in Denver then moved to Boise, where he went to high school, then on to UM. When asked, he called Montana home, or used to. Some say he’s headed to Silicon Valley to consult with the billionaires. (Anecdote: after hearing the news that he won the 2012 election, the first person Obama asked to see was “the Montana guy.”)

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