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Pro Politics with Zac McCrary
49 minutes | Oct 26, 2021
Chuck Robb of Virginia...Governor, Senator, Marine
Who else has a story like Chuck Robb? Marries the President Johnson's daughter in a White House ceremony, serves in Vietnam, changes the political culture of Virginia in the 70s and 80s, two consequential terms in the Senate, helps found the influential centrist DLC, and casts several courageous, unpopular votes that ultimately take a toll on his career in elected office. This is a frank, revealing conversation though Governor Robb's one-of-a-kind political life.IN THIS EPISODE…Governor Robb’s indirect connection to Woodrow Wilson…His formative time in the Marines, including combat in Vietnam…A young Chuck Robb’s ceremonial role in the LBJ White House…He recalls a meeting in the Lincoln Bedroom asking the President Johnson’s blessing to marry his daughter Linda…More of his memories from seeing President Johnson up close…He also speaks to the important role that Lady Bird Johnson played in President Johnson’s career…He weighs in on the “rivalry” between the Kennedys and the Johnsons…The ribbing from John McCain that would always get a rise from Governor Robb…The early days kicking his political career off in Virginia…The 1984 DNC Convention speech he gave that gave rise to the centrist, DLC movement…Why he never ran for President…The long relationship between Chuck Robb and Doug Wilder…He remembers his iconic 1994 re-election race against Oliver North…He talks through his courageous 1996 vote against the Defense of Marriage Act…He also talks his reversal of opinion to cast a vote against the Flag Burning Amendment…He talks his losing 2000 race against George Allen and gives advice to candidates running as underdogs…Weighing in on the debate over the filibuster reform…He talks the roles he’s taken on after his Senate career…AND…8th and I, Joe Biden, Harry Byrd, Bill Clinton, Marshall Coleman, Jim Crow, Everett Dirksen, Episcopalians, John Glenn, heifers, Howell Heflin, Hubert Humphrey, HMX-1, Scoop Jackson, Barbara Jordan, Robert Kennedy, Jackie Kennedy, John McCain, mixed doubles with Ethel Kennedy, muddy boot Marines, Sam Nunn, Strom Thurmond, the USS Northampton, the WMD Commission, Robert W. Wooley, & more!
60 minutes | Oct 19, 2021
A Tour de Force with Stefan Smith on Disruptive Digital & the Buttigieg Boom
There aren't many stories like Stefan's Smith in politics...growing up with a single mom in public housing in South Carolina...and from a gig worker to the upper echelons of presidential campaigns and iconic progressive organizations in four years. Stefan flirted with both a career in academia and the entertainment industry before finding his calling in digital politics. In this conversation, he talks his unusual path to politics, his road warrior days on campaigns, goes deep on his time with the Buttigieg campaign, & the projects he's taken on since. Stefan is also generous with his advice to those bouncing around campaigns, those interested in working in digital, and anyone looking to help make working in politics accessible to more people. IN THIS EPISODE…Stefan’s upbringing in Greenville, South Carolina…The life-changing moment when Stefan got his first computer…The first race Stefan cared about…Why Stefan veered away from academia…Stefan’s stint as a researcher / writer on Drunk History on Comedy Central…The two reasons why Stefan found himself on the 2016 Hillary Clinton Presidential Campaign…Stefan’s time as an itinerant campaign worker for Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and Senator Martin Heinrich…Stefan’s “transformational” experience building a digital plan for New Mexico Democrats…Stefan’s 4 practical tips for campaign road warriors…Stefan’s circuitous path to working for Pete Buttigieg…Stefan’s take on why & how Buttigieg dramatically exceeded conventional wisdom in 2020…Stefan takes us inside the Buttigieg world on Iowa Caucus night…Stefan de-mystifies the Buttigieg digital strategy…Stefan’s digital advice for lower-budget campaigns…Stefan’s tips for operatives who want to work in digital…Stefan’s post-primary work on election violence and criminal justice reform…Stefan’s current job as the #2 digital staffer at the ACLU…Stefan’s one ask of white people to help diversify political campaigns…Stefan’s one unusual work habit…AND…10-page memos, Adobe Premier, Rakim Brooks, George W. Bush, Greta Carnes, the catapult strategy, the CHIP program, clown car primaries, the Confederate flag, Kevin Costner, digital armies & ass whoopings, dope meme stashes, Facebook, Carrie Gooch, Al Gore, Michael Halle, Bridget Halligan, Kamala Harris, Meena Harris, Martin Heinrich, the Iowa Liberty-Justice Dinner, Tito Jackson, Jay-Z, Jeep Wranglers, Marsha P. Johnson, Van Jones, Joe Kabourek, the Kennedy-Nixon debates, Eric Koch, Machiavelli, Meek Mill, momentous cigarette breaks, More in Common, Jess O’Connell, para-social relationships, political gateways, Postmates, pyroclastic volcanic flows, Reddit, REFORM, Karl Rove, Ian Sams, Bernie Sanders, Saturday morning champagne, Hari Sevugan, Sonal Shah, Lis Smith, SnapChat, Spice Girls chat rooms, Samantha Steelman, Tom Steyer, Sun Tzu, Twitter, Uber Eats, vanity metrics, Viacom, Chris Wallace, Derek Waters, Patrick Wyman, YouTube…& MORE!
48 minutes | Oct 12, 2021
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the First Hispanic Woman Elected to Congress
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen has a truly American story: born in Cuba, emigrates to Miami with her family at age 8, works as a teacher before being elected to the Florida legislature - and then makes history as the first Hispanic woman in American history to be elected to Congress. This is a great conversation about her one-of-a-kind life, history-making career, great political stories, and advice & insight to candidates, elected officials, lobbyists, and staffers after serving nearly 30 years in the U.S. House.IN THIS EPISODECongresswoman Ros-Lehtinen’s early memories growing up in Cuba and her sudden emigration to Miami…She breaks down why Cuban Americans started to align with the Republican Party…The conversation that got her involved in politics for the first time…She talks about her House predecessor, the legendary Congressman Claude Pepper…How she overcame racist tactics to become the first Hispanic woman elected to Congress…The surprising way she learned she made history on Election Night…What surprised her as she got her feet wet in Congress…She’s remembers how Newt Gingrich changed the Republican Party and transformed Congress…Why she didn’t sign the 1994 Republican “Contract with America”…The House Democrat she remembers for brass-knuckle tactics…She remembers times she was “in the dog house” for breaking with GOP party leadership…Her signature accomplishments after 30 years in the house…She remembers the intensity around the Elian Gonzalez custody case, occurring right in her district…She weighs in on if the Elian Gonzalez case cost Al Gore Florida in 2000 and ultimately the presidency…Her memories of the impeachment of Bill Clinton…Why she never ran statewide and didn’t run for re-election in 2018…Her take on what makes a good lobbyist…Her tips on running on a congressional office…She remembers Marco Rubio as a young intern in her office…What does she miss about being in Congress…Her take on why there are so many Florida politicians on the national scene…She weighs in on whether Florida remains a “swing state”…Her advice on what people should do when visiting Miami…AND…537 Votes, The Bay of Pigs, Beltway Fever, Brigade 2506, Jeb Bush, Kathy Castor, Fidel Castro, Liz Cheney, Shirley Chisholm, Bill Clinton, Billy Corben, Katie Couric, Cuba Libres, the Defense of Marriage Act, Tom DeLay, Val Demings, Ron DeSantis, Lincoln Diaz-Balart, Mario Diaz-Balart, Bob Dole, Dante Fascell, first airplane rides, Tom Foley, get-along and go-along Republicans, Newt Gingrich, Elian Gonzalez, Homestead Air Force Base, Steny Hoyer, Sam Johnson, JFK, Bill Lehman, David Leahy, Dexter Lehtinen, John Lewis, La Loba Feroz, John McCain, Bob Michel, a minority mentality, Stephanie Murphy, Obamacare, olive-green military attire, Red Pepper, Robert Redford, Janet Reno, Steve Schale, snowbirds, South Beach, SWAT teams, the University of Havana, Versailles, Don Young, & more!
48 minutes | Oct 5, 2021
Ed Peavy & the Mission of Mail
Ed Peavy founded Democratic direct mail firm Mission Control and is rightfully known as one of the good people in the business. In this conversation, Ed talks why after working a few weeks on the Hill he knew it wasn't right for him, his early campaign days including on the legendary Harris Wofford Senate race in Pennsylvania, and then starting a small direct mail firm that has become one of the most successful in politics. Great conversation with Ed with lots of practical tips about the mechanics of campaigns, the art of mail, running a political business, and much more. IN THIS EPISODE…Ed grows up in the Beltway and has a closer-than-you’d-think connection the Iranian Hostage Crisis…The first political race Ed remembers…Ed’s brief time working as a Hill staffer…and when he realized it wasn’t for him…The congressional race Ed worked on that changed his professional path…Ed learns a lot on the legendary Senate special election to elect Harris Wofford in PA…Ed’s thoughts on what separates good campaign managers from the pack…Ed’s path to consulting and direct mail…Ed makes the decision to start Mission Control direct mail…The story behind the name “Mission Control”…The story of a rival candidate hiring Ed after being attacked by Ed’s mail…The key races that helped put Ed and Mission Control on the map…Ed breaks down his process of building his professional network…Ed’s 101 on how campaigns and candidates should utilize direct mail…Ed talks the the work Mission Control did in the GA Senate races to flip the Senate majority…The thing that some people do that drives Ed “the most nuts” in the business…Ed breaks down who is and isn’t a good fit to work in direct mail…Ed weighs in with his tips on deeply controversial travel questions…AND John Anderson, Tom Andrews, Melissa Bean, Paul Begala, Tim Bishop, Richard Bolling, Joe Brennan, James Carville, Jimmy Carter, Dante Fascell, Gerald Ford, Sam Gejdenson, Felix Grucci, Martin Hamburger, Maren Hesla, Brian Joyce, Stephen Lynch, Jim Maloney, Marty Markowitz, Joe Moakley, Dennis Moore, Connie Morella, Adnaan Muslim, Steve Murphy, Jon Ossoff, Claude Pepper, RAGBRAI, Ronald Reagan, Nelson Rockefeller, Olympia Snowe, Tom Suozzi, terrible headlines, Dick Thornburgh, upset landslides, Alan Wheat, Anthony Weiner,…& more!
50 minutes | Sep 28, 2021
Dr. Michael D. Cohen...Pollster, App Builder, Author
Dr. Michael D. Cohen studied under iconic pollster Bill Hamilton as a student, worked in the trenches in Republican campaigns, spent time at Gallup, apprenticed under iconic GOP pollster Tony Fabrizio (most known recently as Donald Trump's pollster) and worked with famed Dem strategist Mark Penn when Michael was an in-house pollster at Microsoft. Along the way, Michael started his own firm (Cohen Research Group), built the booming political Congress in Your Pocket technology app, and recently wrote the book Modern Political Campaigns to bring the campaign literature up to speed with the ever-evolving political industry. This is a great nuts-and-bolts conversation on the political industry with a successful pollster, tech entrepreneur, and author.IN THIS EPISODE…Michael’s formative years growing up on Long Island…The political switch flips for Michael in college…Michael crosses paths with famed Democratic pollster Bill Hamilton…Michael makes the jump to political polling under Tony Fabrizio…The bizarre story of how one of Michael’s candidates was pilloried on the Colbert Report…Michael starts his own polling firm to move beyond partisan politics…Michael’s stint as an in-house pollster at Microsoft with Mark Penn…Michael’s compares working with legendary Dem pollster Mark Penn and iconic GOP pollster Tony Fabrizio…Michael creates the wildly successful Congress in Your Pocket app…Michael’s 101 on how to create an app…The long journey behind Michael’s new book Modern Political Campaigns…Michael’s advice to those who want to write a book and get it published…Michael’s take on what makes a good pollster…Michael weighs in on the question of a “polling crisis”…Michael’s advice on the best books to understand how politics works…AND AAPOR, Michael Bender, Sidney Blumenthal, Stephen Colbert, Sean Cook, Bob Dole, enlargement ads, Ezra Cohen Corporation, Arthur Finkelstein, the Gallup Poll, Josh Gottheimer, Sasha Issenberg, Peter Jennings, Steve Jobs, Ed Koch, Celinda Lake, Massapequa mannerisms, mobilization vs. persuasion, Never Trump Republicans, Ronald Reagan, Rowman & Littlefield, Jake Rush, Karen Thurman, Chris Tompkins, Tevi Troy, vampire roleplaying, Ted Yoho, & more!
53 minutes | Sep 21, 2021
Mindy Myers on Winning Senate Races, Running the DSCC, & Starting MZL Media
Mindy Myers has a knack for being where political history happens and, more importantly, has run and won tough Senate races. She managed Sheldon Whitehouse in 2006 over Linc Chafee and ran Elizabeth Warren's first political race in 2012...then was the first ever woman to serve as E.D of the DSCC. Now she's started MZL Media to put into practice what she's learned winning tough races. And even as a young operative, Mindy found herself witnessing political history...working for trailblazing Congresswoman Pat Schroder, interning in the Clinton White House during impeachment, the Brooks Brothers' riot in Florida, the Daschle office when Jim Jeffords switched, helping Democrats win the Senate in 2006, running a state for Obama in 2008, seeing the very start of the Elizabeth Warren's political career and on and on. This was a great conversation walking through Mindy's time in politics and what she's learned along the way.IN THIS EPISODE…The 1992 Year of the Woman engages a young Mindy growing up in Lancaster, PA…Mindy interns in the office of trailblazing Congresswoman Pat Schroeder…Mindy’s works in the White House during the Clinton impeachment era…Mindy’s moves to Nashville to work on her first campaign in Al Gore’s 2000 race…Mindy’s "boiler room" memories of roller coaster election night 2000Mindy’s on the ground for a first-hand account of the Brooks Brothers riot in Florida…Mindy works in the office of Senator Tom Daschle…Mindy’s memories of Jim Jeffords’ party switch in 2001…What Mindy learned from iconic Chief of Staff Pete Rouse…Mindy manages Sheldon Whitehouse’s 2006 Senate campaign against incumbent Lincoln Chafee…Mindy explains why Linc Chafee was like “a bad boyfriend”…Mindy’s advice for first-time campaign managers…Mindy runs the Obama 2008 general election in New Hampshire…Mindy runs Elizabeth Warren’s first Senate race in 2012…Mindy’s tips for Hill Chiefs of Staff…Mindy’s time as the first woman to serve as the ED of the DSCC…How many phone calls with Chuck Schumer are part of an average week for the ED of the DSCC?Mindy’s memories of the upset victory of Doug Jones over Roy Moore in 2017…Mindy’s decision to launch the new media firm MZL Media...Mindy’s take on how to run effective Independent Expenditure campaigns…Mindy’s “guiding principles” of how candidates should choose consultants…...AND 36 days in Florida 2000, Paul Ambrosino, John Anzalone, ballot watching in Volusia County, Michele Ballantyne, Richard Blumenthal, Donna Brazile, Scott Brown, Pat Buchanan, Mark Childress, Hillary Clinton, Tom Delay, Monica Dixon, Mike Donilon, fabulous memos, Vic Fazio, Donnie Fowler, Franklin & Marshall College, Mandy Grunwald, Joe Hansen, Tim Johnson, Doug Jones, John King, Roger Lau, Tracey Lewis, John McCain, Linda McMahon, Roy Moore, Janet Murguía, obscure Vermont radio, Mark Patterson, Peoples’ Pledge, Pete Rouse, Pat Schroeder, Jeanne Shaheen, Arlen Specter, Chris Van Hollen, Michael Whouley, Lynn Yeakel, Sarah Callahan Zusi…& more!
54 minutes | Sep 14, 2021
The Rise of Raghu Devaguptapu
Not many people have a story in politics like Raghu Devaguptapu...son of Indian immigrants, making the jump from touring with a band to working in politics, working at the upper echelons of both state and national politics, and then co-founding his own media firm. This is a great conversation talking through Raghu's early life, key moments in his career, and insight and advice from a one-of-a-kind career in politics. IN THIS EPISODE…Raghu grows up in Wisconsin as the son of immigrants straddling the worlds of being both American and Indian…Raghu’s connection an Indian political luminary…Raghu’s early forays “organizing” college parties creates an entre to political organizing…Raghu’s time as a singer in the alt-rock scene in the Midwest…Raghu’s Wisconsin Politics 101…Raghu learns important lessons on Russ Feingold’s Senate campaign…Raghu comes into his own running the WI State House Caucus…Raghu learns important lessons while finding himself in the middle of a political scandal…Raghu goes national working on state legislatives at the DLCC…Raghu’s critical time at the DGA and AFSCME’s IE…Raghu makes the jump to ad-making at the Adelstein Liston media firm…Raghu helps elect the first Indian American to Congress in 50 years…Raghu learns important lessons working for Congressman Mike Honda…Why and how Raghu co-founds his own media firm Left Hook…Raghu talks how Left Hook helped elect Mark Kelly to the US Senate…Raghu weighs in on how to run smarter campaigns…AND Eric Adelstein, George Aldrich, appropriate engagement models, Ami Bera, David Bergstein, Big Wheel, Tanya Bjork, Anthony Carter, Jen Cox, Michael Davies, economic diasporas, Ricky Feller, the Fox Valley, Lisa Grove, Lucinda Guinn, Brandon Hall, Danny Kazin, Kennedy Democrats, Lake Winnebago, the Lion of Andrha, Ann Liston, Operation Sting, Optic Box, Rachel Ostendorf, powder-keg questions, the Salt March, Larry Scanlon, Soul Asylum, Tom Petri, Tanguturi Prakasam, Scott Tyre, Josh Wachs, Wandering Aimlessly, the William D. Ford direct lending program, Josh Wolf, & more!
51 minutes | Sep 7, 2021
Jim Duffy, a Godfather of Democratic Media
Jim Duffy is one of the Godfathers of Democratic media consultants. He joined with Raymond Strother in the mid 80s to form Strother Duffy - one of the elite Dem firms of the era. Jim cut his teeth working in New Orleans politics - for names like Moon Landrieu and Lindy Boggs, before making the move to DC as an ad-maker. As a media consultant, Jim has helped elect numerous Senators, Governors, and members of Congress - and in this conversation, he talks about the Louisiana politics of his youth, learning the nuts and bolts of campaigns in New Orleans, and his experiences and advice from four decades working in political media.IN THIS EPISODE…How the policies of Huey Long brought the Duffys to Louisiana…Jim breaks down the Long / anti-Long Louisiana politics of his youth…Jim talks the influence of Cajun voters on state politics…Jim tells some great Edwin Edwards stories…Jim’s first big political break by working with New Orleans Mayor Moon Landrieu…Jim manages Congresswoman Lindy Boggs first competitive primary…Jim intersects with premier Democratic media consultant Raymond Strother in 1984…Jim talks the political consulting landscape of the 1980s…The 1989 special election that helped put Jim on the map on his own…Jim’s deep bench of Blue Dog clients…Jim tells a great story of developing the message to help Buddy Roemer beat Edwin Edwards…Jim’s advice to those entering the media business…Jim pays a compliment to a Republican’s ability to message…Jim’s pitch for people to work in politics…AND…Roger Ailes, Matt Angle, Beryl Anthony, Doug Bailey, Sidney Barthelemy, Lloyd Bentsen, Hale Boggs, Lindy Boggs, Jim Brown, Bud Cramer, the Delta Airline Crown Room, David Duke, Joyce Elliot, Martin Frost, Pete Geren, Bob Goodman, Al Gore, Charles Guggenheim, Bill Hamilton, Peter Hart, Blanche Lincoln, Bob Livingston, Russell Long, Louisiana State Normal College, Bill McCuen, message delivery systems, LF Payne, Leander Perez, Mark Putnam, David Sawyer, Ronnie Shows, Bob Squier, Charlie Stenholm, Strother Duffy Strother, Blaze Starr, Billy Tauzin, Wayne State University, Jim Wright & MORE!
59 minutes | Aug 31, 2021
Ellen Malcolm, founder of EMILY's List, on Women Winning
Ellen Malcolm helped found EMILY's List in 1985 and then served as EL’s President for 25 years. It’s hard to think of an organization over the last 30+ years that has changed politics more than EMILY's List, dramatically increasing the number of Democratic women in the both the Senate and the House. In this conversation, Ellen talks about how her early stops at places like Common Cause and the National Women’s Political Caucus prepared her to help found, launch, and grow EMILY's List. And Ellen outlines the key moments, decisions, and campaigns that have forged the successful political institution EMILY's List has become. IN THIS EPISODEEllen grows up in a Republican household…The cause and candidate that pulled Ellen into progressive politics…Ellen cuts her teeth at Common Cause and the National Women’s Political Caucus…Ellen comes out of the philanthropic closet…The one Senate race in 1982 that was the catalyst for the creation for EMILYs List…Geraldine Ferraro’s role in energizing the women’s political movement…How “pro-choice” and “Democratic” became integral to EMILYs List mission…Ellen’s memorable first meeting with then newly-elected Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi…Barbara Mikulski and EMILYs List make history in 1986…The 1988 House race that became a prototype what would soon be EMILYs List political department…Ellen remembers her deep emotional investment in Ann Richards races in Texas…The 1992 “Year of the Woman” changes the trajectory of EMILYs List…The 2004 House race that became a model of how EMILYs List tries to operate…After 25 years as President of EL, how Ellen knew it was time to pass the torch…Ellen’s advice for new or smaller organizations that want to be the next EL…AND 12-2 meetings, 60 Minutes, Tammy Baldwin, Lindy Boggs, Mary Beth Cahill, chain letters, Common Cause, John Danforth, donor networks, Dwight Eisenhower, the ERA fight, Anna Eshoo, John Gardner, Jane Hickey, Anita Hill, Eugene McCarthy, Walter Mondale, Gwen Moore, NOW, Mary Rose Oakar, David Obey, Tip O’Neil, Jen Pihlaja, Sally Ride, Run to Win, Stephanie Schriock, Wendy Sherman, Simon & Garfunkel, Martha Smiley, Lael Stegall, Adlai Stevenson, Clarence Thomas, Jolene Unsoeld, Willi Unsoeld, Watergate, Henrietta Windom, Harriet Woods…& MORE!
53 minutes | Aug 24, 2021
Nebraska's Ben Nelson on the Death of the Senate
Ben Nelson has lived an iconic political life...two terms as Governor and two terms in the Senate as a Democrat in deep red Nebraska - and the key swing vote on landmark legislation from the Bush tax cuts to judicial votes to Obamacare. In this conversation, he talks his political career - beginning with his first Governor's race (starting at 0% and winning by 42 votes). And he goes into depth about his time in the Senate - weighing in on colleagues that impressed him and disappointed him, and touching on the themes of the breakdown of the body in his new book Death of the Senate. IN THIS EPISODESenator Nelson reminisces about growing up in idyllic Western Nebraska…The significance of being an only child…A memorable first experience in the Nebraska’s Governor’s Office as a 17-year old…Senator Nelson talks about the importance of his political hero Senator George W. Norris…The value of a unicameral legislature…Why Senator Nelson gravitated toward Democrats despite growing up in very Republican turf…Senator Nelson’s academic background in Philosophy…Winning his first race for Governor by 42 votes…Senator Nelson talks about his lone loss in the 1996 open Senate Seat…How he came back four years later to win a Senate race…Which of his new Senate colleagues were the biggest surprises to him?Senator Nelson pinpoints the transition from Trent Lott to Mitch McConnell as the start of the breakdown of the Senate…Senator Nelson talks his vote for the Bush tax cuts…Did he get close to switching parties?Senator Nelson explains his early primary endorsement of Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton?Senator Nelson walks through the process that led to the passage of the ACA Obamacare…Setting the record straight on the so-called “Cornhusker Kickback”…The letter Senator Nelson wrote correcting Justice Scalia…Why did Senator Nelson forgo running for re-election in 2012?Senator Nelson’s “rough” perspective on Donald Trump…Weighing in on the debate over eliminating the filibuster…Senator Nelson’s advice on hiring and managing…Senator Nelson’s itinerary for getting the Nebraska Experience…AND….Barbara Boxer, John Breaux, burrow-crats, Robert Byrd, Dick Cheney, circuit breakers, conference committees, Tom Daschle, Bill Frist, Chuck Hagel, hollow math, the Hyde Amendment, Interstate-80, Jeffersonian principles, JFK, kooks, Lala Land, laboratories of democracy, Joe Lieberman, Trent Lott, making it rain, Joe Manchin, One Nebraska, party theology, Harry Reid, ridiculous carrots, sophists and skeptics, Tom Sawyer, Saul Shorr, Olympia Snowe, so-called autobiographies, stare decisis, Toadstool Park, unfunded mandates, Wildcat Hills, & more!
41 minutes | Aug 17, 2021
Analyst Jessica Taylor on 2022 Senate Races & Making History at The Almanac of American Politics
Jessica Taylor is the Senate Editor for the Cook Political Report with Amy Walter and recently made history as the first woman to be a Senior Author for the Almanac of American Politics. Jessica talks her small-town Tennessee roots, her path to political journalism, her early thoughts on the 2022 Senate map, and a deep-dive into both the history of The Almanac and her ground-breaking role at that hallowed institution.IN THIS EPISODE…Jessica traces her interest in political journalism to both her mother and father…How a neighbor from Arkansas made an important impact on a 7-year old Jessica…Jessica’s first job working at her local paper…Jessica’s career goals take shape at Furman University…Advice Jessica gives to young aspiring journalists…Jessica’s controversial tenure as editor of her college paper…Jessica’s first job in DC political journalism…Jessica talks her time working with both Stu Rothenberg and Charlie Cook…Jessica shares a memorable “candidate interview” from a now high-profile elected official…Jessica explains the “race ratings” that are a big part of her job…Jessica’s early take on the 2022 Senate map…Jessica talks the history of the Almanac of American Politics…A couple of Jessica’s favorite details she’s learned researching for The Almanac…AND…Lamar Alexander, John Armstrong, Judy Bainbridge, Michael Barone, Cheri Beasley, Ted Budd, Richard Burr, Bill Cassidy, Bill Clinton, Rich Cohen, Roy Cooper, Ted Cruz, Howard Dean, Val Demings, David Dewhurst, Doug Ducey, Jennifer Duffy, John Edwards, The Elizabethton Star, Ally Flinn, Friday Night Lights, Nathan Gonzales, Jeff Jackson, Meg Kinnard, Kristin Kobes du Mez, Charlie Mahtesian, Pat McCrory, nationaljournal.com, the New York Times, The Paladin, David Perdue, Rob Portman, Kyrsten Sinema, Grant Ujifusa, Herschel Walker, Amy Walter, Dave Wasserman, the Watergate Building, William Rehnquist, & MORE!
46 minutes | Aug 10, 2021
Author & Journalist Edward-Isaac Dovere on the Battle for the 2020 Democratic Nomination
You know Edward-Isaac Dovere from his work at The Atlantic, and Politico before that. His recent book Battle for the Soul chronicles the 2020 presidential campaign, especially the Democratic primaries. In this conversation, we discuss Isaac's path to writing about politics, the genesis of his book, and several of the key moments from the 2020 campaign trail.IN THIS EPISODEThe member of Congress who helped Isaac first get involved in the political process…Isaac talks through the genre of “campaign books”…Isaac shares the original title of the book and how “Battle for the Soul” later emerged…Isaac’s contention that Medicare For All hindered the candidacies of the most progressive candidates…Isaac talks through a symbolically important dinner at the Georgetown Four Seasons…How close did Hillary Clinton get to jumping in?Isaac’s take on why Beto O’Rourke’s campaign didn’t catch on…Isaac talks the importance of Lis Smith to the rise of Pete Buttigieg…Isaac breaks down the post-debate boom for Kamala Harris…Why Isaac sees the Clyburn Fish Fry as a microcosm of the primary…Isaac gets behind the scenes of the Clyburn endorsement of Joe Biden…Isaac talks Bernie at his high point post-Nevada caucus…Isaac’s contention that Amy Klobuchar had an enormous impact on the Biden VP decision…The trail restaurant Isaac is most eager to visit again...AND…David Axelrod, Pete Buttigieg, Julian Castro, CBD dispensaries, Guy Cecil, classic Iowa questions, the Clyburn Fish Fry, Cobble Hill Restaurant, Ted Cruz, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Kamala Harris, The Hill, Amy Klobuchar, John Lewis, Terry McAuliffe, Pat Moynihan, Jerry Nadler, Barack Obama, Jen O’Malley Dillon, Beto O’Rourke, Nancy Pelosi, Bernie Sanders, Al Sharpton, Stephanie Schriock, Chuck Schumer, Lis Smith, St. Kilda, Eric Swalwell, Neera Tanden, Elizabeth Warren, Gretchen Whitmer, and MORE!
60 minutes | Aug 3, 2021
Chuck Rocha On Organizing, Bernie, & Solidarity
Chuck Rocha, Democratic operative and founder of Solidarity Strategies, may have the most interesting and unusual story of ascent in politics. From a 19-year old single father working a union job at a rubber plant in East Texas, to the political director of the national Steelworkers' Union, to a senior advisor to both Bernie Sanders' campaigns, and founder of the largest Latino-owned political consulting firm. Chuck's stories, insight, and advice match his unconventional path in the industry...this is a great conversation with one of the most distinctive voices in American politics.IN THIS EPISODE… Chuck talks navigating both the Mexican and Anglo sides of his family…Chuck talks his first job out of school working in a rubber factory…Chuck’s eyes are opened once he starts working in his local union…The Chuck Rocha 101 of Political Organizing…Chuck’s early intersection with Ann Richards campaigns…Chuck cuts his teeth on Martin Frost’s campaigns in Texas…Chuck’s path from the factory floor to the National Political Director of the Steelworkers…How Chuck makes the decision to start his own firm, Solidarity Strategies…Chuck learns important lessons after making a professional mistake…Chuck’s advice for anyone starting their own political business…Chuck helps elect an underdog insurgent Mayor of Providence, RI…Chuck talks the different vibes in pitching the presidential campaigns of Hillary Clinton vs Bernie Sanders…Chuck talks how the mistakes and experiences from Bernie 2016 led to the early Bernie 2020 momentum…Chuck’s advice as to how local campaigns can replicate the Bernie 2020 organizing success…Chuck’s insight into Bernie Sanders’ the person that the rest of us don’t know…Who had the best Bernie impression on the campaign?Chuck stars the innovative Nuestro Super PAC?Chuck’s advice to help Democrats better connect with Latino voters…Chuck talks the importance of cultural competency in communicating with Latino voters…Chuck’s career advice for the next generation of operatives…The new habit that is “changing Chuck’s life”…AND…Luis Alcauter, aspirational messaging, beepers, the Blue Green Alliance, Buddy Cianci, Larry Cohen, economic populism, eggheads, El Charro’s, Jorge Elorza, Jim English, Martin Frost, Eileen Garcia, Daysi Gonzalez, Goodyear Tire, Google translate, Maria Hinojosa, Yvette Herrera, keyboard warriors, Matthew McConaughey, John Nash, Nuestro PAC, Vinny Panvini, Ari Rabin-Havt, rapid-response fax machines, rednecks in East Texas, Ann Richards, Jon Soltz, Larry Scanlon, Terry Turner, Tio Bernie, Tortilla Coast, Vote Vets, Jeff Weaver, woke white consultants, & MORE!
59 minutes | Jul 27, 2021
Steve Schale: Obama Man, Biden Man, Florida Man
No operative is more identified with their state's politics than Steve Schale is with Florida. Steve cut his teeth winning tough legislative districts in Florida as the state drifted red, then ran Florida for the winning Obama campaign in 2008 and was deeply involved again in Obama 2012. And beyond Florida, Steve helmed the Draft Biden 2016 effort and the 2020 Biden Super PAC Unite the Country. This is a great conversation not just about Steve's experiences in Florida politics, but also covering how a high-level political operative approaches campaigns, building organizations, and navigating a career in a tough industry.IN THIS EPISODESteve’s “uncle” who was elected Governor of a Midwestern state (before spending time in prison)…Steve’s early activism in the anti-apartheid movement…How Newt Gingrich inadvertently helped Steve during the first campaign he worked…Steve develops a reputation for helping Florida Democrats win in red areas…What races Steve thinks are the best training ground to learn politics…The “argument” Steve had during his Chicago interview to run for Florida for Obama 2008…The one tactical decision that helped Obama 2008 keep Florida on their swing state map…Steve talks what put Obama over the top in Florida…Steve remembers the Election Eve event in Jacksonville when he told Sen. Obama he was going to carry the state…Steve talks how the Obama 2012 win in Florida was different than winning in 2008…Why Steve initially held a grudge toward Joe Biden…and what Biden did to win him over for good…Steve talks how 2015-2016 Draft Biden effort was the most interesting four months of his life…Just how close did Biden get toward jumping in the 2016 race…Steve’s role in creating and running the Biden Super PAC Unite the Country…Steve’s advice for doing live television…The HR lessons Steve learned from hiring and running a 600-person campaign…Steve’s international involvement with the NGO American Council of Young Political Leaders…AND…Biden’s aviators, Jeb Bush, Stephen Colbert, the Congo, Charlie Crist, Rich Davis, Dick Durbin, Florida House Victory, Peter Gabriel, Newt Gingrich, GOPAC, Gwen Graham, Leonard Hamilton, Steve Hildebrand, Michael Jordan, Nelson Mandela, Jonathan Martin, Mitch McConnell, Jen O’Malley Dillon, David Plouffe, Greg Schultz, soft diplomacy, Paul Simon, Jerry Springer, the Tallahassee Crowd, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Doug Wiles, win and advance, & more!
57 minutes | Jul 20, 2021
Maren Hesla's Been Everywhere & Done It All in Democratic Politics
Maren Hesla has done virtually everything there is to do in Democratic politics. She’s currently a partner in leading Democratic direct mail firm Mission Control…but before that she managed campaigns, worked for the DNC, DCCC, and EMILYs List, and spent time as a media consultant and pollster. Maren talks her personal journey as a Minnesota transplant growing up in the Deep South and what she’s learned navigating the political profession. Great episode with both smart political stories and highly actionable advice for pursuing and succeeding in a career in politics. IN THIS EPISODE…Maren’s first political memory at a local protest…Maren’s memories growing up in the Atlanta area during the height of the Civil Rights Era…Maren’s memories of seeing a fellow Georgian in the White House….Maren’s first campaign with a local political icon in the Atlanta area…How a mistake calculating voter IDs played havoc in the Mondale targeting operation…How Maren built the first statewide voter file in Georgia county by county…Maren manages the campaign of Ben Jones (“Cooter” from the Dukes of Hazzard)…The Democratic member who broke Maren’s heart…Maren talks what a field plan looked like in the 1990s…Maren’s time in the polling industry learning under Diane Feldman…Maren remembers Tammy Baldwin’s underdog first race for Congress…Maren’s unlikely path to EMILY’s List…Maren’s best practices to running independent-expenditure campaigns…Maren’s early modeling project at EMILYs List…Maren talks the talent pipeline produced by EMILYs List…How Maren joined up with Mission Control and Ed Peavy…Maren explains Direct Mail 101…The most common mistakes in direct mail…Maren talks how smart direct mail aided in the recent elections of Sherrod Brown and Jon Ossoff…AND…the Analyst Institute, Julian Bond, Sherrod Brown, cutting turf, Rahm Emanuel, Emory University, Jennifer Granholm, Amy Green, Clay Henderson, Allison Jaslow, John Lewis, Ann Liston, Lester Maddox, Hal Malchow, Ellen Malcolm, Manuel Maloof, Martha McKenna, Ellen Moran, Jim Moran, Jerry Nadler, Jon Ossoff, the Peanut Brigade, Mike Podhorzer, psychographic profiles, Jim Quackenbush, Connie Schultz, Doug Sosnik, standard-issue white guys, Pat Swindall, George Wallace, Karen White, Andrew Young, and MORE!
57 minutes | Jul 13, 2021
The Political Life of Haley Barbour
Other than those who've been elected President, I'm not sure anyone in his generation has had a more remarkable political career than Haley Barbour. Running Mississippi for Nixon while he was still in college...ED of the MS GOP at a critical building phase in the 70s...battling a Senate Giant in his unsuccessful first race in '82...running the Reagan White House's political operation...chairing the RNC during the '94 GOP wave...2-term Governor...and starting what has become one of the most successful lobbying government affairs firms in the country. Great conversation hearing about Haley Barbour's rise from small town Mississippi to the highest corridors of political power. IN THIS EPISODEHow Haley Barbour got into politics “totally by fluke”…Running Mississippi for Nixon in ’68…What made a young Haley Barbour gravitate to the Republican Party…The rise of Thad Cochran and Trent Lott…Haley Barbour’s time in the early 70s as executive director of the Mississippi Republican Party…The story of Haley Barbour’s lone political loss in the 1982 Senate race against longtime Dem incumbent John Stennis…Haley Barbour’s rules for candidates and campaign managers…Haley Barbour’s time running the political operation in the Reagan White House…Haley Barbour tells his favorite Jim Baker story…The connection between Haley Barbour and serial killer John Wayne Gacy…Why was Barbara Bush so angry at Haley Barbour in the ’88 campaign?Why Haley Barbour turned down working out of the White House?The one time Ronald Reagan overruled Haley Barbour?The early days of the rise of Newt Gingrich…Haley Barbour beats two future US Senators to take over the Republican National Committee in 1993…Haley Barbour talks the GOP wave of 1994…Haley Barbour talks his 2003 Governor’s campaign ousting a Democratic incumbent…How he overcame the “lobbyist” label in the Governor’s race…Getting close to jumping in the 2012 presidential race…How Haley Barbour started one of DC’s premier lobbying firms…Haley Barbour rules for being an effective lobbyist…AND…Spencer Abraham, John Ashcroft, Lee Atwater, James Baker, Lloyd Bentsen, Kirk Blalock, Remy Brim, Barbara Bush, Bob Calloway, Gil Carmichael, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton Mitch Daniels, Democrats for Eisenhower, Walt Disney, Bob Dole, James Eastland, Frank Fahrenkopf, Don Fierce, Gerald Ford, Kirk Fordice, Jim Free, Lanny Griffith, Mike Huckabee, Paul Johnson, Paul Laxalt, Ron Lewis, Zell Miller, Ronnie Musgrove, Lyn Nofziger, the OEB, Mike Parker, Heather Podesta, Tony Podesta, Scott Reed, Ed Rogers, Ed Rollins, Mitt Romney, George Shultz, Sam Skinner, Stu Spencer, John Sununu, Jim Thompson, George Wallace, Wendell Willkie, and MORE!
59 minutes | Jul 6, 2021
Jim Messina, from Montana to Obama
From a very early age, Jim Messina knew he wanted to manage a presidential campaign. And he made it happen as the manager for the 2012 Obama re-elect. In between, Jim ran campaigns at all levels across the country, served as Chief of Staff on Capitol Hill, and served as a White House aide helping pass much of the first-term Obama agenda. In this conversation, Jim talks growing up in a blue collar Mountain West family, his early activism against nuclear weapons, how he connected with eventual mentor Senator Max Baucus, and the lessons learned on his path to managing the campaign to re-elect President Obama.IN THIS EPISODE…The story of Jim “managing” his first campaign in 4th Grade…The book a young Jim read that turned him onto politics for good…Jim helps save the political career of the mayor of his college town…The impact of the “no Nuke” movement on Jim…Jim talks his relationship with his mentor Senator Max Baucus…The similar approach in the Baucus ’02 re-election and the Obama 2012 re-elect…Jim’s involvement in stopping the Bush ’05 Social Security Privatization plan…Jim talks why Republicans often have the strategic advantage on messaging…Jim’s theory as to why Montana creates so many talented political operatives…Jim’s best practices for working on Capitol Hill…The Republicans that have impressed Jim over the years…Jim waxes nostalgic about Prairie Populism…Jim talks about the greatest living Senate staffer…Why Jim almost passed on working for the Obama 2008 race…Voter file controversies in 2008…Jim tells great stories from helping put the Obama Cabinet together… Jim talks how President Obama wouldn’t let the ACA fail…The “shrewdest political operator” Jim has ever seen…Jim’s conversations with President Obama before taking the helm of the 2012 re-elect…What surprised Jim about running a presidential campaign…Jim talks inflection points in the 2012 presidential campaign…Why Jim was confident Biden wouldn’t have major gaffes in 2020…Jim's approach to starting The Messina Group after 2012… AND…21 Rules, Yohannes Abraham, actual mullets, Al D’Amato, David Axelrod, Baucus Burger Bonanzas, the Beast, Steve Bullock, Andy Card, Jimmy Carter, Tara Corrigan, Jim Crounse, Tom Daschle, Byron Dorgan, John Elway, Rahm Emanuel, FABIO, Tim Geithner, Girl in Red, Newt Gingrich, half-gin/half-tonic, Dave Hunter, Jesse Jackson, Liz Jarvis-Shean, Peter King, Celinda Lake, Trent Lott, Mike Mansfield, Ty Matsdorf, Carolyn McCarthy, midnight calls from Bill Clinton, Olivia Morgan, Patty Murray, Jen O’Malley, Alyssa Mastromonaco, Nancy Pelosi. David Plouffe, Prairie Populists, Marc Racicot, Harry Reid, Mitt Romney, Pete Rouse, Eric Schmidt, Stephanie Schriock, Nate Silver, Julianna Smoot, Steven Spielberg, Gail Stoltz, Taylor Swift, Larry Summers, Jon Tester, Three Mile Island, walking across Montana, Pat Williams, Anna Wintour, and MORE!
60 minutes | Jun 29, 2021
Nse Ufot, CEO of The New Georgia Project, on Organizing & Winning
Nse Ufot is CEO of The New Georgia Project, an integral part of the infrastructure that contributed to Georgia turning blue for Joe Biden and delivering two US Senate seats as part of a Democratic majority. Under her leadership, NGP has trained local activists, built innovative organizing apps, and helped register over 400,000 voters. In this conversation, Nse talks her childhood move from Nigeria to Atlanta, her early days as a labor lawyer, building NGP with Stacey Abrams, and the strategies employed and lessons learned that helped turn Georgia blue in 2020/2021.IN THIS EPISODE…Nse talks her memories of growing up the first few years of her life in Nigeria…How growing up in a large family informed Nse’s early politics…What got Nse off a path towrard medical school…The childhood hero that taught Nse to “never meet your heroes”…How a UN conference in South Africa & 9/11 set Nse on her career path…Nse’s early career representing public employees in negotiations…Nse talks about what it’s like representing zookeeper’s in public-employee bargaining…Why Nse’s path nearly didn't cross with Stacey Abrams…Nse recounts the origin story of the New Georgia Project…How the Affordable Care Act was a launching pad for growing the New Georgia Project…Nse talks about the Stacey Abrams she knows from working closely with her for years…Nse talks the nuts-and-bolts of political organizing…Nse talks the mechanics of New Georgia Project’s registration efforts…The innovative technology NGP builds and employs…Nse talks NGP’s role in flipping GA in November 2020 & January 2021…How Nse & NGP are looking at the 2022 cycle…
45 minutes | Jun 22, 2021
An Engaging Conversation with Author Sasha Issenberg on the 25-year Path to Marriage Equality
Journalist and author Sasha Issenberg recently released his new book, The Engagement: America's Quarter-Century Struggle Over Same-Sex Marriage. Sasha chronicles the path to progress on this issue from the early 90s when even most LGBT advocates didn't see marriage equality as an achievable goal..to the present with marriage equality cemented by the Supreme Court and over 70% of Americans (and rising) lining up behind these rights. In this conversation, Sasha talks the core thesis of his book, the strategic decisions that made a difference in the debate, the key political actors on both sides of the debate, and insight into the inner workings of the Obama White House as the positions of the President and VP evolved. A lot of smart stuff from Sasha to chew on as a primer for his authoritative book, The Engagement, on the seminal civil rights issue of the last thirty years(Please consider leaving a rating and review in your podcast app)IN THIS EPISODE…The conversations that led to Sasha sinking his teeth into this topic…Sasha explains why “civil unions” was a double-edged sword for the marriage equality movement…The problems gay marriage advocates had to solve to move from losing to winning at the ballot box…The “huge” breakthrough for the gay community in the ’92 presidential campaign…The Republican who played a key role in moving Senate Democrats toward marriage equality…Which marriage equality opponent was the most effective?What explains the “backlash” in public opinion against marriage equality in the mid 90s and mid 2000s?Inside the Obama White House when VP Biden comes out for marriage equality before the President…Sasha talks the 5-4 Supreme Court Obergefell decision…One elected official Sasha believes showed a Profile in Courage on this issue…Sasha talks the importance of pop culture in driving progress…Two book recommendations Sasha used as models for The Engagement…AND…George Allen, PT Barnum, Elizabeth Birch, Barbara Boxer, Bill Clinton, Brides Magazine, James Comey, contact theory, Betsy DeVos, Mike Dukakis, the ERA ratification fight, Andrew Flores, Barney Frank, Freedom to Marry, going to war with Bolivia, Whoopi Goldberg, Lisa Grove, Hawaii’s Future Today, Valerie Jarrett, Anthony Kennedy, Mark Kirk, the LDS Church, longitudinal connections, Claire McCaskill, Ken Mehlman, the movable middle, notebook factories, the NRCC, NYT wedding announcements, the Orlando Magic, the Portland Arch Diocese, the Reliance Doctrine, Rob Portman, Robin Roberts, Chuck Robb, Mitt Romney, Arnold Schwarzenegger, sending astronauts to Pluto, Amy Simon, the soil of South Carolina, Jon Tester, Third Way, The View, virtuous cycles, Dick Wirthlin, & MORE!
54 minutes | Jun 15, 2021
Miles Coleman, Political Analyst & President of Election Twitter
Miles Coleman is an analyst at the University of Virginia's Center for Politics, though he is best known as the unofficial President of "Election Twitter" - a loose affiliation of (mostly) amateur political junkies and pundits who drive much of the political chatter and analysis on social media. Miles also has helped popularize political cartography, with some of his self-made political maps revealing important insights about elections past, present, and future. In this conversation, Miles talks all things Elections Twitter, goes into his personal connections to two prominent US Senators, talks through the several years he spent at the FBI, and puts on his pundit hat to give his take on the 2022 cycle.(Please consider leaving a rating and review in your podcast app) IN THIS EPISODE… What does Miles have in common with Chris Christie?The first candidate Miles’ waved signs for…The story of Miles first political maps…Miles connection to Senator Kay Hagan…Miles Coleman…at the FBI?Miles story of being around James Comey…Miles trip to New Hampshire as an exit pollster…How does Miles get to the UVA’s Center for Politics…Miles best practices for “race ratings”…Miles DMs with Senator Claire McCaskill…Miles talks the origin of “Election Twitter”…Miles cliffs notes tutorial on what goes into election mapping…Miles early thoughts on the 2022 cycle… AND…Hale Boggs, the Crystal Ball, Dave’s Redistricting App, DDHQ, Elizabeth Dole, Jeff Flake, the IC, the J Edgar Hoover Building, Ron Johnson, Doug Jones, Brian Kemp, Krispy Kreme donuts, Kyle Kondik, Earl Long, minimizing toss ups, Roy Moore, Ray Nagin, Barack Obama, Larry Sabato, Kyrsten Sinema, Chris Sununu, Donald Trump, Ann Wagner, and MORE!(Please consider leaving a rating and review in your podcast app)
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