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Pro Politics with Zac McCrary
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Pro Politics with Zac McCrary

Author: Zac McCrary

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Political pollster Zac McCrary interviews interesting people who work in and around the political industry. Guests come from a multitude of backgrounds and specialties within the political industry, and span the partisan spectrum. This is not a podcast for partisan squabbling or punditry about the latest issue in DC - it is hearing directly from successful people in the industry...their stories, experiences, and advice. This is a podcast for anyone who works in politics, hopes to work in politics, or wants to get up close to see how things really work in the world of professional politics.
33 Episodes
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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!
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!
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!
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!
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!
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!
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!
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!
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!
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!
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!
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!
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…
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!
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)
Those in the political world know Jason Stanford as the founder of the opposition research firm Stanford Campaigns - which is still going strong after 20+ years. He's also a prolific writer, with a new book out. Forget the Alamo chronicles the history of the Alamo, starting before the first shot was fired to the present day as the Alamo continues to roil Texas politics. In this discussion, Jason talks about his early days in Moscow as an aspiring spy, cutting his teeth working for Ann Richards in Texas, starting his opposition research firm, and touches on a few of the fascinating stories from his new book.Podcast WebsiteTwitter: @ProPoliticsPodTwitter: @ZacMcCraryFacebook: The Pro Politics Podcast(Please consider leaving a rating and review in your podcast app)IN THIS EPISODEJason is an eyewitness to Boris Yeltsin rolling in the tanks…How a West Coast kid like Jason winds up working in Texas politics…Jason works for and learns from Ann Richards in the ’94 campaign…Jason dusts off some of the ’94 talking points against George W Bush…How Jason started his opposition research firm in the mid-90s that is still going strong today…Jason talks a couple of times his research changed the course of a campaign…The origin story of Jason’s new book Forget the Alamo…Jason explains the connection between the Alamo and Walt Disney, John Wayne, and Phil Collins (yes, that Phil Collins)…How the Alamo played an important role in JFK’s 1960 campaign…The Alamo causes political waves for George P. Bush and Julian & Joaquin Castro…Jason provides an itinerary for your next visit to Austin…AND…Barton Springs, a black Volkswagen without A/C, Jim Bowie, Bryan Burrough, James Carville, Rosie Castro, Ben Chandler, the Continental Club, Davy Crockett, Lincoln Davis, Johnny Depp, gas station tacos, ghostwriters at the Alamo, internet porn, Bruce Lunsford, the mayor of Jerusalem, Dan Morales, Ken Paxton, Mike Plant, Ton Ryan, Santa Ana, Mark Strama, the Texas Rangers, Chris Tomlinson, William Travis, Donald Trump, the World Bank, Boris Yeltsin…and more!Podcast WebsiteTwitter: @ProPoliticsPodTwitter: @ZacMcCraryFacebook: The Pro Politics Podcast(Please consider leaving a rating and review in your podcast app)
James Aldrete comes out of a family political tradition with one foot in the world of radical Tejano politics of the 50s and 60s - and one foot in the  Democratic establishment. As a political professional, he's merged those strands to start his own firm (MAP) based in Austin, TX and become a leading voice within the Democratic party on communications and messaging, with a focus on Hispanic engagement and media. In this conversation, James talks cutting his teeth in Texas politics for Governors Mark White and Ann Richards, building his own media firm over the past 20+ years, working in multiple presidential campaigns, and his thoughts on the changing way to communicate with a diversifying coalition of voters.Podcast WebsiteTwitter: @ProPoliticsPodTwitter: @ZacMcCraryFacebook: The Pro Politics PodcastIN THIS EPISODEJames grows up with one foot in Texas and one foot in DC…James’ family roots in both radical politics and establishment politics…James remembers leading lights of the Hispanic community coming through for dinners at his house…James’ interns at the Lloyd Bentsen-era DSCC…The 1986 Mark White Governor’s campaign gives James his first political network…James' memories working for Ann Richards’ 1990 campaign…How James grows his business after hanging up his own shingle in the mid 90s…James experience working for Obama 2008 media team…James best practices of communicating with Hispanic voters…James talks Trump’s 2020 performance with Hispanic voters…The Santa Fe Mayoral Race that meant a lot to James…AND Kirk Adams, Sharron Angle, David Axelrod, Lloyd Bentsen, Fabian Chavez, Matthew Dowd, Kida de la Garza, Harris Diamond, the GI Forum, Dave Gold, Javier Gonzales, Charlie Gonzalez, Henry Gonzalez, Larry Grisolano, Luis Guiterrez, Jane Hedgepeth, Dwayne Holman, Ruben Hinojosa, Hubert Humphrey, Kathleen Hall Jamieson, Felix Longoria, Jim Margolis, Mark McKinnon, Ruben Montoya, Dick Morris, George Rakis, Harry Reid, Ann Richards, Cecile Richards, Eliot Richardson, Ciro Rodgriguez, George Sanchez, John Sayles, Bob Squier, Raymond Strother, Russ Tidwell, Mark White, Isabel Wilkerson, Ralph Yarborough….and more!Podcast WebsiteTwitter: @ProPoliticsPodTwitter: @ZacMcCraryFacebook: The Pro Politics Podcast
Enjoy a short bonus episode with the iconic (and iconoclastic) Kinky Friedman...country music legend, best-selling novelist, and sometimes political candidate. Kinky talks through some of his political heroes, his favorite political stories, his time in the Peace Corps, his friendship with both Bill Clinton and George W Bush.,.& and closes the episode with one of his songs - that was a favorite of Nelson Mandela.IN THIS EPISODE...Kinky talks about the politician that spoke to him most as a kid....Kinky tells the story of Texas political legend Barbara Jordan's famous speech at the 1976 Democratic Convention...Kinky's time in the Peace Corps in Borneo...Kinky tells the story of a lunch involving Bob Dylan and his father...The story of one of Kinky's songs being played regularly by Nelson Mandela in his prison cell...Kinky writes the "first pro-choice" country song...Kinky talks through his early days as a musician in Nashville...Kinky's time around Bill Clinton and George W. Bush (both big fans of his novels)Kinky visits the White House...Kinky's current passion project of the Echo Hill Ranch, providing a summer camp experience for kids of Gold Star families...AND...Barrabas, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Marcie Friedman, Professor Tom Friedman, John Glenn, Hill Country Motors, Molly Ivins, Barbara Jordan, JFK, Moses, Dolly Parton, Rick Perry, Ann Richards, Rolling Thunder Revue, Mark Twain, Tokyo Sexwale, Shel Silverstein, Adlai Stevenson, Robert Strauss, Helen Suzman, Billy Swann, the White Horse Saloon, Hank Williams, Warren Zevon, and MORE!
Becki Donatelli is a legendary GOP strategist and a trailblazing digital consultant. She got her start as a Goldwater Girl, worked for Reagan in '76, knew Jim Baker and Ronald Reagan, and worked with John McCain in 2000 & 2008. As a digital pioneer, Beck was part of the first operation to raise political money on the internet. And her firm, Campaign Solutions, has been leading in the digital space for 20+ years in presidential races and hundreds of statewide and congressional campaigns. This is a great conversation following Becki's one-of-a-kind career and a front-row seat to the advent and evolution of the digital politics we know today.Podcast WebsiteTwitter: @ProPoliticsPodTwitter: @ZacMcCraryFacebook: The Pro Politics PodcastIN THIS EPISODEBecki talks about growing up in “idyllic” Orange County, CA in the 1960s…Becki’s first political experience volunteering for a CA Assembly race…Becki’s love-at-first-sight experience with DC…Becki works for the insurgent ’76 Reagan campaign…Becki’s involvement in Jim Baker’s one race for office in Texas…The story behind the first online political donation…and the surprising recipient…Becki’s friendship with Roger Stone…Becki’s passion for political fundraising and the difference between Doers and Donors…Becki talks about her time around Ronald Reagan…Beck starts a new firm…and connects with John McCain…How Becki’s firm played a key role in the insurgent McCain 2000 campaign…The early “wars” between online giving vs. major donors…Becki and her firm stick it out with McCain during the up-and-down 2008 primaries…Becki’s best practices on digital messaging…Becki admires the Obama digital operation…Becki talks the historically expensive Lindsay Graham / Jamie Harrison race of 2020…Becki identifies a “bad practice” within the industry…How Becki’s firm stays on top of a rapidly-changing industry…AND The Biltmore, Charlie Black, Rich Bond, Cambridge Analytica, Chick-fil-A, Citizens for Reagan, Bob Dole, Elizabeth Dole, Frank Donatelli, Carla Eudy, Fairfield Inns, Facebook, Steve Forbes, Barry Goldwater, Tom Hockaday, Brian Jones, David Keene, Walter Knott, Jim Lake, Paul Manafort, George Pataki, skywriters, Roger Stone, John Wayne, John Weaver, YouTube, and more!Podcast WebsiteTwitter: @ProPoliticsPodTwitter: @ZacMcCraryFacebook: The Pro Politics Podcast
Very few people have had more impact on US House races over the past decade than Ali Lapp. After years in campaigns and as a Hill Chief of Staff, she created House Majority PAC from scratch in 2011. With Ali at the helm, HMP has established itself as a vital presence on the political landscape - raising and spending hundreds of millions of dollars to elect Democrats to the House. In this episode, Ali talks her early days in politics in Washington state, her time on the Hill as a Chief, how and why she started HMP, and what she's learned from a decade in the trenches in House races.Podcast WebsiteTwitter: @ProPoliticsPodTwitter: @ZacMcCraryFacebook: The Pro Politics PodcastIN THIS EPISODEAli’s first political memory…Ali looks back on the pendulum swinging back and forth in Washington state as she grows up…How volunteering for a legislative campaign in college leads to Ali becoming a House Chief of Staff in DC…Ali talks the Hill in the 90s…Ali runs John Kerry’s caucus campaign in 2004…Ali joins the famed Rahm Emanuel-led DCCC team of the 2006 cycle…Ali’s front-row seat at the creation of the “modern-day independent expenditure” …What motivated Ali to start House Majority PAC after 2010…The nuts and bolts of starting HMP from scratch…Ali’s “most depressing moment” in the first year of HMP…What Ali’s learned about fundraising after a decade of raising money…Ali’s take on what mistakes she sees campaigns making…Ali’s favorite example of a “high impact" HMP tactic…The House districts that have most frustrated Ali over the years…The 2006 House race that informs how Ali thinks about going negative in races…Ali’s tips on hiring and managing…AND… Sheldon Adelson, American Crossroads, airplane banners over the Jersey Shore, John Barrow, Melissa Bean, Jeff Bjornstad, Leonard Boswell, Bill Burton, the Christian Coalition, the Congressional Airport Caucus, Howard Dean, Norm Dicks, Brad Ellsworth, Rahm Emanuel, EMILYs LIST, Sarah Feinberg, Geraldine Ferraro, flight attendant school, Tom Foley, Scott Garrett, Josh Gottheimer, Bruce Kieloch, John Lapp, LCV, Warren Magnuson, the MCU, Microsoft, Jen O’Malley, Jen Psaki, Ralph Reed, Christina Reynolds, Karl Rove, Nicole Runge, Adam Smith, Randy Tate, Ellen Tauscher, The University of Puget Sound, David Valadao, Brian Wolff, and MORE!Podcast WebsiteTwitter: @ProPoliticsPodTwitter: @ZacMcCraryFacebook: The Pro Politics Podcast
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