Show cover of Pro Politics with Zac McCrary

Pro Politics with Zac McCrary

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.


Whit Ayres & 30+ Years as a Top GOP Pollster
Whit Ayres, founder and president of North Star Opinion Research, has been a leading GOP pollster for more than 30 years. First a high school teacher then an academic, he cut his political teeth as state Budget Director for South Carolina Governor Carroll Campbell. As a pollster, upset Senate victories for Georgia Senator Paul Coverdell in 1992 and Tennessee Senator Bill Frist in 1994 put Whit and his firm on the map. And since then he's worked for some of the biggest names in GOP politics: Strom Thurmond, Lamar Alexander, Marco Rubio, Bob Corker, Lindsey Graham, Ron DeSantis, among others. In this conversation, Whit talks his path to politics, favorite campaign stories, most famous clients, best polling practices, thoughts on the trajectory of the GOP and much more.IN THIS EPISODEWhit's interest in politics sparks in an Ames, Iowa high school classroom...The "searing experience" that influenced him in 1970s Berlin...What Whit learned teaching 8th grade public school for three years...Whit's gets his start in politics working for future South Carolina Governor Carroll Campbell...How a vetoed pay raise encouraged Whit to take up political polling...Whit's first big client, Paul Coverdell, wins an upset Georgia Senate race in 1992...Whit's role in Lamar Alexander's insurgent 1996 GOP Presidential Primary campaign...Whit helps re-elect South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond at age 94 to his last term in the Senate...Whit polls for Marco Rubio's underdog first US Senate race in 2010 over Florida Governor Charlie Crist...Whit talks his role working for Ron DeSantis in 2018...and his take on the DeSantis 2024 presidential...Whit remembers the 1994 Bill Frist upset Senate win in Tennessee...Whit's take on the evolution of the GOP over the last decade...Whit on what makes for an effective pollster...Whit talks his time as active airplane pilot...AND academic towns, ballistic donors, Bob Barr, the Bernoulli Principle, bionic men, Brexit, Pat Buchanan, William Jennings Bryan, Checkpoint Charlie, Chris Christie, Bill Clinton, commuting marriages, Bob Corker, Steph Curry, Davidson College, Bob Dole, Mr. Enquist, flaming underdogs, Wyche Fowler, Cheryl Glenn, hail fellow well mets, Alex Haley, Nikki Haley, Tom Ingram, Dan Judy, Ted Kennedy, Rush Limbaugh, Huey Long, Dick Lugar, mainframe computers, Jon McHenry, Mike Murphy, Barack Obama, plaid work shirts, Adam Putnam, Dick Riley, Ronald Reagan, Jim Sasser, Floyd Spence, the Tea Party, totalitarian regimes, Donald Trump, two scrubs, Vanderbilt Hospital, George Wallace, Susie Wiles, Joe Wilson, & more!
58:26 4/2/24
Larry Huynh & His Unconventional Path as a Digital Trailblazer
Larry Huynh is a Partner and founder of Trilogy Interactive, a trailblazing digital political firm. His path to politics is anything but typical...his family coming to the U.S. as refugees after the Vietnam War, his academic background in biochemistry, and early career in the finance sector. In this conversation, Larry talks his unconventional route to working in politics, the 2004 campaign that changed his trajectory, early days of the political internet, plus some of his favorite case studies, best practices, and thoughts on digital trends that have the potential to change politics. IN THIS EPISODEHow Larry's family had to flee Vietnam after the fall of Saigon...Growing up a Texan in a low-income family in Houston...Larry talks his pre-political interest in biochemistry and work in the financial sector...The 2004 movement to Draft General Wes Clark into the presidential race pulls Larry into politics...Memories of meeting General Clark the first time and the 2004 Clark campaign...What contributed to the massive spike of online fundraising in the 2004 presidential campaign...Larry starts one of the first digital political firms after the 2004 elections...How Barbara Boxer's approach to Senate hearings blazed a path for effective use of digital political tools...Larry on current trends in digital politics...Larry talks studies his firm has done to better utilize AI...Larry's perspective on the right type of people who should pursue a career in digital politics...Larry talks his role as President of the AAPC and smart ways to utilize the organization...AND alchemy, Bank of America, Stacey Bashara, best laid plans, Brent Blackaby, Blackrock, Doug Boxer, Howard Dean, Fort Chaffee, genetically-modified seeds, hard science, Jeff Hauser, jacked-up arms, Paul Johnson, Rose Kapolczynski, John Kerry, kill lists, Blanche Lincoln, Terry McAuliffe, John McCain, Jason McIntosh, Katie Merrill, Monsanto, MoveOn, Eli Pariser, Condaleeza Rice, Diana Rogal, Josh Ross, Randy Stearns, vice principals, windowless rooms....& more!
55:39 3/19/24
Chancellor & Congressman Kent Hance, the Best Storyteller in Texas
Kent Hance served 6 years in the House from West Texas, was Chair of the Texas Railroad Commission, and had an 8-year tenure as Chancellor of the Texas Tech University System - but his most famous political accomplishment is as the only person to ever defeat George W. Bush in a political campaign. He also hosts his own podcast, The Best Storyteller in Texas, where he mines his favorite political stories and weighs in on the news of the day. In this conversation, Chancellor Kent Hance talks about his famous 1978 win over George W. Bush in an open-seat congressional...his preceding time in the Texas State Senate, his time in the House carrying landmark legislation for President Reagan, running statewide, helming a major public university system, memories of iconic political figures, and some of his best stories from 6+ decades in politics.IN THIS EPISODE...Growing up in rural West Texas...How the books his mother chose to read to him as a child led to a lifelong interest politics...A Kent Hance best-practice for avoiding troublemakers at town hall meetings...How he took on a West Texas political machine to beat a sitting State Senator in 1974...Chancellor Hance shares his memories of iconic Texas political figures John Connally, Lloyd Bentsen, and Ann Richards...Going in-depth about his good friend and former colleague, Congresswoman Charlie Wilson...How Kent Hance beat George W. Bush for Congress in an open seat race in 1978...The 1978 Hance campaign tactic that stuck with George W. Bush for 30+ years...Memories of sponsoring President Reagan's historic, controversial tax cut in the early 1980s.Highlighting a major difference in the leadership style of Presidents Reagan and Trump...Coming up short running for Senate in 1984...Demystifying what it's like serving on the Texas Railroad Commission...What led to becoming Chancellor of the Texas Tech University System...The curveball of the Texas Tech football coach he helped hire becoming now-US Senator Tommy Tuberville...AND $1.2 Billion, AT&T, Jodey Arrington, Coalter Baker, Jim Baker, bank charters, Choc Blanchard, Doc Blanchard, Laura Bush, The Committee for the Survival of a Free Congress, Barber Conable, dealmakers, Bob Dole, Ken Duberstein, Phil Gramm, hardcore Navy guys, Tommy Joe Harrison, hating Communists, Chic Hecht, Vic Henry, Bill Hobby, Lee Iacocca, Jack Kemp, LBJ, Little Britches, George Mahon, mail carriers, Wilbur Mills, Walter Mondale, the New England Journal of Medicine, Don Pease, Sam Rayburn, Walter Rogers, Dan Rostenkowski, Preston Smith, talking heads, trial lawyers, Donald Trump, Paul Weyrich, whipping the Russians, Clayton Williams, windfall profits tax...& more!
43:55 3/5/24
What Morgan Searcy Learned from 200+ Interviews with First-Time Political Staffers
Morgan Searcy is a graphic designer whose work has supported some of the top brands in corporate America (Nike, MTV to name a few) and has also worked in campaigns for names like Warren and Ossoff. After the 2020 cycle, she embarked on a new project to capture and record experiences of first-time political staffers - a project that turned into the book One Year in Politics. In this work, she chronicles interviews with more than 220 first-time political staffers...with in-depth information about their motivations, challenges, concerns, aspirations, and more.IN THIS EPISODEMorgan's roots growing up as an Asian American in Huntsville, AL...What drew Morgan to politics from a largely non-political family...Morgan talks her background in graphic design and best practices for effective visuals...How Morgan transitioned from corporate design work to working in politics in the 2020 cycle...What led Morgan to tackle the project that turned into her book, "One Year in Politics"...Morgan's takeaways from 220+ interviews with first-time political staffers...Hurdles identified by first-time BIPOC staffers...What interviews from 2020 revealed about staffer experiences during the pandemic...The types of "burnout" first-time staffers report feeling...How first-time staffers' ideology compared to the candidate or cause for whom they worked...Morgan's advice to staffers early in the career...AND 5-Star hotels, all-hands meetings, art kids, bigger logos, Boeing, brand recognition, Emerge, EMILYs List, Google Forms, hierarchies of information, Jason Kander, NASA, Jon Ossoff, traditional job boards, video game designers, Werner Von Braun & more!
37:24 2/20/24
Jim Margolis, Founding Partner of Democratic Media Firm GMMB
Jim Margolis, partner at GMMB media, is a pioneering Democratic media consultant who is featured in the new documentary, The Bigger Hammer, by filmmaker Keith Gaby that focuses on the message war behind the Obama vs. McCain 2008 race (now available on Amazon). In this conversation, Jim talks his path to politics through student activism in Kalamazoo, managing House campaigns, and working on the Hill before partnering with Frank Greer to start GMMB. He also goes in depth on his work for the Obama Presidential campaigns and shares some of his favorite stories and spots from a career atop the world of political media.IN THIS EPISODEJim's early entry into politics as a high schooler in Kalamazoo, MI...Why a narrow loss in one of the first races he worked was "the best thing that ever happened" to him...Jim talks the important role Congressman Howard Wolpe played in his development...Lessons learned from his early days as a campaign manager and Hill Chief...A one-of-a-kind story from Kent Conrad's upset 1986 Senate win in North Dakota...How his partnership with Frank Greer started and Jim's early days as an ad-maker...A deep dive into Jim's role spearheading media on the Obama '08 presidential campaign...Why Jim had the '08 Democratic Convention stage dramatically changed at the last minute...Jim's 101 on producing political conventions...Jim on working for two of his most prominent Senate clients, Barbara Boxer and Harry Reid...What got Jim in Harry Reid's doghouse for a couple of weeks...Jim talks the evolution of his firm GMMB over the years...Jim breaks down the art of political ad-buying...Jim's advice to the next generation of political media consultants...AND 3/10/83, Brock Adams, Africanists, Mark Andrews, David Axelrod, blue suits, Quentin Burdick, the Chicago Tribune, Cinderella years, Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, crazy hats, Fred Davis, disease implications, Byron Dorgan, ending apartheid, extra chips, fancy Florida hotels, Dianne Feinstein, Fort Defiance, Wyche Fowler, game show sets, good ears, Larry Grisolano, herculean tasks, Anita Hill, Paris Hilton, Invesco Stadium, John Kerry, Jim Messina, Michigan State University, Walter Mondale, Robby Mook, mosquito nets, Navajo reservations, David Plouffe, punch cards, Bernie Sanders, tax commissioners, Western Michigan University...& more!
54:46 2/6/24
Pro Politics Podcast Update: New Episodes Coming Soon
Listen to a brief update about the Pro Politics Podcast, with the upshot that you should stay tuned for new episodes coming soon. For any feedback, feel free to drop me a line at mccrary.zachary(at) Thanks for listening.
01:01 1/9/24
Mark Z. Barabak, L.A. Times Political Columnist, on the Changing Politics of the New West
Mark Barabak, the veteran political reporter and columnist for the L.A. Times, has just helmed a six-part series analyzing the political evolutions across the New West - Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Oregon.  In this conversation, Mark talks his recent series, touches on the politics in all six of these states, and breaks down what it says about the trajectory of the region and the impact on the national landscape. He also mines his reporter's notebook to talk some of his favorite stories and personalities from 35+ years covering politics.IN THIS EPISODEMark talks how he was drawn to working in political journalism...The one state Mark hasn't covered yet...What led Mark to helm his recent series on the New West...The biggest surprise in the recent political evolution of the West...How much remains of the historical, libertarian political character of the West...How Cindy McCain has recently played an important symbolic role in Arizona politics...Mark on Governor Jared Polis and political trajectory of Colorado...Why emigration from California is not helping Republicans in the rest of the region...Mark talks the importance of Latino voters in the West...Mark's take on what it would take for Republicans to finally break through in Oregon...What Bend, OR reveals about politics in the state...How resilient is Democratic strength in the West if the party moves more to the left...How Bill Clinton muscled California into becoming a safe Democratic state...The anecdote Mark has waited 30 years to use...Mark recalls the importance of the Berman/Waxman So Cal "machine" and Northern CA's Burton "machine"...Mark's memories covering Nancy Pelosi's political career from her very first race in the 80s...Mark weighs in on the '24 California open Senate seat...The most charismatic politicians Mark has seen over the years...AND 801 Chophouse, accelerants, Joe Biden, Barbara Boxer, Harry Britt, broad libertarian streaks, Pat Brown, Ron Brown, Willie Brown, bundling, Sala Burton, George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush, California tattoos, criminal malpractice, Gray Davis, Michael Dukakis, election deniers, John Emerson, extractive industries, fingertip sensitivity, Diane Feinstein, Greek Lit, Kamala Harris, Peter Hart, John Hickenlooper, the hoi polloi, Mark Kelly, Ted Kennedy, John Kerry, Kari Lake, Adam Laxalt, Barbara Lee, Mel Levine, Bill Lunch, Maricopa County, Blake Masters, Leo McCarthy, Narragansett, Grover Norquist, Tip O'Neill, Mike Ovitz, Leon Panetta, Pablo Picasso, Katie Porter, RINOs, Ronald Reagan, Dick Riordan, Brian Sanderoff, Adam Schiff, John Seymour, Derek Shearer, Bob Shrum, sourdough bread, unhelpful quotes, Pete Wilson...& more!
56:55 11/21/23
How Beshear Kept the Bluegrass State Blue, with Beshear '19/'23 Manager Eric Hyers
Eric Hyers, manager of both Andy Beshear's '19 and '23 gubernatorial races, goes deep on last week's election of Governor Beshear in Kentucky. Eric talks his initial theory of the race, key strategic decisions from both campaigns, how the Beshear campaign fought back against transgender attacks and leveraged the issue of abortion against GOP nominee Daniel Cameron. In addition to getting under the hood of the 2023 race, Eric outlines his path to politics, experiences helping Democrats win in red states, theories on effective campaign management and much more.IN THIS EPISODEEric's early days in political organizing and how that prepped him to run campaigns...Eric weighs in on the three traits of effective campaign managers...What Eric has learned about fostering the right relationship between a candidate and campaign manager...Eric's memories of helping elect Governors Gina Raimondo and Steve Bullock...Why the office of Attorney General makes a good launching pad for Democrats running for higher office...The Eric Hyers' 101 of Kentucky politics...How Eric entered the political world of Andy Beshear...How Andy Beshear ousted GOP incumbent Matt Bevin in 2019...How Governor Beshear talked Eric into managing the 2023 re-elect as well...Eric's theory of the race when it kicked off in early 2023...Eric breaks down the strengths and weaknesses of GOP nominee Daniel Cameron...How the Beshear campaign responded to attacks on transgender issues...How the Beshear campaign went about targeting securing Trump / Beshear voters...The strategic decision to communicate on the issue of abortion exceptions...The messaging importance of Governor Beshear always "showing up" for Kentucky...What Eric can report about the turnout dynamics of the 2023 race...Eric's most unusual work habit...AND 17% approval ratings, 20,000 yard signs, Rocky Adkins, Steve Beshear, the Brent Spence Bridge, bus tours, David Cicilline, Cincinnati suburbs, complete jerks, crisis governors, DraftKings, John Edwards, GPS Impact, getting to yes, Greg Gianforte, Kirsten Gillibrand, good luck gourds, Mandy Grunwald, Jack Harlow, Bill Hyers, Nicole Kayner, Patrick Kennedy, Colin Lauderdale, managing multiple humans, Mitch McConnell, The Mountain Parkway, playoff beards, primetime players, Pulaski VA, red to pink, Saratoga Springs, setting a tone at the top, Josh Shapiro, Skidmore College, spreadsheet guys, TV Andy, Erin White, Williams College, Fred Yang....& more!
50:12 11/14/23
Author & Pollster Patrick Ruffini on His New Book, PARTY OF THE PEOPLE, & the Changing GOP Coalition
Patrick Ruffini, pollster at Echelon Strategies, returns to talk about his new book (released today, 11/7/23) PARTY OF THE PEOPLE - on the transition of the Republican Party from being dominated by wealthy, suburban white voters to a more blue-collar and increasingly-multi-racial coalition. In this conversation, Patrick lays out the data behind these shifts, what is driving the GOP's new-found success with blue-collar voters, why this movement came as a surprise to many, the balance of economic vs. cultural priorities, how Latino/AAPI/Black voters are increasingly persuadable audiences in elections, and expecations as to how these shifts will continue to define American politics for the forseeable future.IN THIS EPISODEPatrick lays out the core thesis of Party of the People...Patrick's favorite data points that illustrate the changing face of the GOP...Patrick's take on the role of "educational attainment" in changing voting patterns...Patrick gives a quick tutorial on when and how Democrats have historically been the party of working-class Americans...How flawed 2012 exit polls have contributed to shifting party coalitions more than a decade later...Patrick's take on how the "In This House..." yard signs unwittingly speak to tensions within the Democratic coalition...Economic vs cultural drivers of voter behavior...Missteps and missed GOP opportunities from the trifecta control of government in 2017 and 2018...Mining recent data among Hispanic voters...What Patrick learned about border communities on a trip to the Rio Grande Valley...Why Lester Chang is important...Why Black voter behavior has been more stable than Latino and Asian voters...Patrick's take on the growing segment of biracial and multi-racial Americans...The impact of free trade and foreign policy on changing partisan coalitions...What Patrick learned in the process of writing his first book...AND 7:3 coalitional splits, anti-globalization sentiments, Joe Biden, blurbs, Brexit, George W. Bush, census buckets, charts and data, Hillary Clinton, Nate Cohn, Thomas Dewey, Tom Edsall, Ryan Enos, existential demographic crisis, fading historical patterns, faint echoes, frontier mentalities, the Great Recession, the green transition, Hamiltonian tendencies, illiberal populism, instinctive hawks, Andrew Jackson, jettisoning first principles, Chryl Laird, majority popular tendencies, mercantile progress, the New Deal, Barack Obama, Mike Podhorzer, Ronald Reagan, the Republican autopsy, rivalrous groups, Mitt Romney, sheepskin effects, David Shor, social taboos, Starr County, Steadfast Democrats, Harry Truman, Donald Trump, the UAW, Ismail White, white phenomenons....& more!
52:07 11/7/23
Fred Grandy: From Hollywood to the Halls of Congress
Fred Grandy spent 8 years in the US House as a Republican from Northwest Iowa, but remains best known for the decade he spent playing the character Gopher on the iconic 70s/80s hit television show "The Love Boat". In this conversation, he talks how his small-town Iowa roots mixed with matriculating at tony Eastern boarding schools, how he came to spend time around both President Eisenhower and President Nixon, why an initial flirtation with politics instead pushed him to Hollywood, what drew him back to politics after an incredibly successful run in show business, memories of his 8 years in the House, challenging an incumbent in a 1994 gubernatorial primary, what he's done since leaving office, and one of his current projects portraying Harry Truman on stage in "Give 'Em Hell, Harry". Fred Grandy is a natural storyteller and no one in politics has a story like him.IN THIS EPISODEHis unusual roots in both Sioux City Iowa and Eastern prep schools...An early lesson in congressional politics before going into show business...Stories of spending time around both President Eisenhower and President Nixon...The accidental conversation that drew him to politics from Hollywood in the mid 80s...Memories of being an international celebrity at the height of The Love Boat's run...The role the "Gopher Gap" and Johnny Carson played in his first race for Congress...Important lessons learned when seeking committee positions in his first term...Why he left the House to mount an underdog primary against IA Governor Terry Branstad...Why politics can be a narcotic...His post-congressional career as an Executive at Goodwill Industries...Talking through his current stage play inhabiting Harry Truman in "Give 'Em Hell, Harry!"AND...the Americans with Disabilities Act, Bret Baier, Steve Bartlett, Berkley Bedell, Sonny Bono, the Bourbons, Bill Broomfield, Bill Clinton, Tom Dewey, fishing tackle, Bill Ford, The Freedom Support Act, funny hats, Newt Gingrich, Goodwill Industries, Clayton Hogdson, Henry Hyde, Steve King, Bob Livingston, lugubrious hearings, Nancy Mace, Gavin MacLeod, Edward Madigan, Marblehead, Wiley Mayne, David McCullough, Bob Michel, Alyssa Milano, moneyed patricians, nativist foundations, Leon Panetta, the patois of the district, the Pendergast Organization, Phillips Exter, Ronald Reagan, the Republican bosom, ringworm, ritual slaughter, Rivercade, Pat Roberts, Dan Rostenkowski, screwing the sugar industry, seed caps, Sherman Oaks, shoving words around a room, Sturm und Drang, summer stock, Robert Taft, Fred Thompson, Craig Tufty, Mary Tydings, Mo Udall, the underbelly of Congress, Watergate & more!
51:26 10/31/23
Remembering Dianne Feinstein, with her former Chief Media Strategist Bill Carrick
Bill Carrick was the longtime chief media strategist for Senator Dianne Feinstein, as well as helping elect President Bill Clinton, multiple LA mayors, Congressman Jim Clyburn, and many more. In this conversation, Bill discusses his early political roots in South Carolina, his time working for Senator Ted Kennedy, his pivot to political media, and a deep dive on his time as chief strategist for Dianne Feinstein. We talk her early activist days in the 60s, the assassination that led to her becoming mayor of San Francisco, their first lunch meeting in 1989, how she leveraged a loss in the '90 Governor's race into 6 terms in the Senate, and her impact and legacy on priorities as varied as water policy, gun safety, choice, anti-torture policies, and more. IN THIS EPISODEBill's roots in South Carolina Democratic politics...One of Bill's favorite Fritz Hollings story...Bill's time working for Senator Ted Kennedy...The 1974 race that convinced Bill he should become a media consultant...Bill talks the early career of Dianne Feinstein on the San Francisco Board...Bill relates the story Dianne Feinstein would tell about the tragic assassination that propelled her to the Mayor's office...The first meeting of Bill with then-Mayor Feinstein before her 1990 Governor's race against Pete Wilson...The focus groups that helped ignite her statewide political career...Her '94 re-election amidst the GOP wave and against one of the first deep-pocketed self-funders...Bill relates Feinstein's views toward being on the short list of the '84 Vice Presidential process...Bill on Senator Feinstein's top passions and priorities...Feinstein's evolving views of the death penalty...Memories of her final re-election in 2018...Bill weighs in on the political legacy of Diane Feinstein...AND Aiken, the assault weapons ban, Tony Bennett, Annette Bening, The Boston Herald, Barbara Boxer, Willie Brown, George H.W. Bush, cable cars, Bill Clinton, the Commerce Committee, DACA, Gray Davis, Kevin de León, The Desert Protection Act, George Deukmejian, Jim Eastland, Dwight Eisenhower, Geraldine Ferraro, Don Fowler, Dick Gephardt, Barry Goldwater, Aaron Henry, Michael Huffington, the Inland Empire, Olin Johnston, Joshua Tree, JFK, Bob Lagomarsino, lovefests, John McCain, Leo McCarthy, Harvey Milk, Walter Mondale, George Moscone, Earl Morris, Rupert Murdoch, the NRA, Richard Nixon, Ole Miss, Prop 187, Pug Ravenel, Ronald Reagan, Dick Riley, Ed Riley, Donald Russell, Arnold Schwarzenegger, John Seymour, Strom Thurmond, Mark Twain, VAWA, John Van de Kamp, Dan White, Curtis Wilkie...& more!
44:17 10/24/23
Jenifer Fernandez Ancona, co-founder of Way to Win, on Effective Progressive Messaging
Jenifer Fernandez Ancona is a co-founder of Way to Win, a progressive donor hub that has helped direct nearly $300M since 2018. Jenifer talks her early experiences in journalism, what pulled her into political activism in the early 2000s, why Way to Win was needed, and the work and research and guidance Way to Win is providing to help Democrats message, organize, and advocate more effectively.IN THIS EPISODEJenifer's path from journalism to political advocacy after 9/11...Both the national and local political figures who inspired her activism...Jenifer talks her work on major donor fundraising...Why Jenifer co-founded Way to Win after the 2016 elections...Jenifer's take on Democrats' historic "message problem"...What Jenifer has learned from Way to Win's research ad-testing 50+ spots...Jenifer on the power of qualitative, focus group research...Jenifer offers guidance on how Democrats should talk about economic progress when many voters are feeling pessimistic...Why Jenifer thinks messages promoting bipartisanship are counter-productive...The balance in communicating to a multi-racial coalition...Jenifer's thoughts on a potential "zoomed out" macro message for progressives...Recent research and guidance Way to Win has rolled out among Latino voters...AND Mandela Barnes, Cheri Beasley, George W Bush, Hillary Clinton, corporate media, crazy babykillers, Howard Dean, deep canvassing, El Salvador, Tory Gavito, Leah Hunt-Hendrix, the LA Times, Daraka Larimore-Hall, movement spaces, Richard Nixon, peace protests, Nancy Pelosi, pregnancy crisis centers, status threats, Swayable, the Tribune Company, Donald Trump, victory laps, Das Williams...& more!
48:54 10/17/23
Liam Donovan Returns to Talk the Toppling of Kevin McCarthy, Odds on the Next Speaker, & State of the GOP Presidential Primary
Liam Donovan, a principal at Bracewell and longtime insider and observer of the Hill GOP, returns to weigh in on a chaotic couple of weeks in the House - including the surprise sidestepping of a government shutdown, the toppling of Speaker Kevin McCarthy, and the budding race to fill his shoes. In this conversation, Liam talks the factors that led to McCarthy's ouster, how House Democrats could've "saved" him (and why they didn't), how he's thinking about the nascent race to be the next Speaker, a check-in on the '24 GOP presidential primary & more.IN THIS EPISODELiam’s take on the 9-month tenure of Speaker McCarthy…Liam’s biggest surprises in the saga of the toppling of Kevin McCarthy…Why the CR to keep the government open both antagonized GOP rebels while alienating House Democrats…Why Democrats might have chosen to “save" McCarthy…and why they didn’t…How Liam is looking at the Jordan vs. Scalise battle for Speaker…Liam on the possibility of a McCarthy Restoration…Why acting-Speaker Patrick McHenry could be a default longer-term option…A couple members of the GOP conference who Liam thinks will be predictive of who emerges from the fight for Speaker…Liam on a possible shutdown after the 45-day CR elapses…The path forward for additional funding of Ukraine…Liam’s latest take on Trump’s strength in the GOP presidential primary and the campaigns of Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley…AND big bargaining chips, catching the fly, Wile E. Coyote, the debt limit crisis, Diet Trump, discharge petitions, evil-genius super villains, Brian Fitzpatrick, the Freedom Caucus, the Gaetz 8, the Full Ginsberg, Lindsay Graham, gratuitous shutdowns, Garret Graves, Ben Jacobs, Hakeem Jeffries, jousting with totems, Mitch McConnell, nihilism, AOC, Nancy Pelosi, Politico, procedural blockades, Punchbowl, The Republican Study Committee, revocable non-support, tipping points, Glenn Youngkin…& more!
42:06 10/10/23
Ed Blakely: GOP Media Trailblazer & Trendsetter
Over the course of a career focused on political media, Ed Blakely helped innovate within Republican politics that led to the modernization of the media arms of campaign committees of both parties. After a stint in US Amry intelligence, Ed spent nearly 20 years at the NRCC before joining the GOP media firm of Smith & Harroff. In this conversation, Ed talks his efforts to modernize political media at the NRCC, his favorite story of filming President Reagan in the Oval Office, memories from John McCain’s first US Senate race in 1986, and much more across an incredibly interesting and influential career in politics. IN THIS EPISODEEd grows up in Hawaii after his father dies in WWII…The somewhat famous (if confidential) film that Ed produced after being drafted into the US Army…Ed’s brush with fame as the youngest disc jockey in Hawaii…How Ed’s path led to political media at the NRCC…Some of Ed’s favorite stories of filming ads with President Reagan in the Oval Office…Ed talks the media innovations he brought to the NRCC that ultimately helped modernize the operations of both parties…Why Ed came back to the NRCC after being at a private agency for over a decade…Ed’s memories of Newt Gingrich’s ascent in the House GOP…Why Ed left the NRCC after more than a decade in the mid 80s & where he landed…Ed helps elect John McCain in 1986 in his first race for US Senate…Ed gives an impromptu history lesson of jingles in political TV ads…Ed talks his approach to fostering new Republican media talent that paid dividends…Ed’s stints in the public sector…  AND Creighton Abrams, Roger Ailes, Army Intelligence, Bailey-Deardorff, Baltimore, Katja Bullock, Jay Bryant, Edward Butler, Tom Delay, Bob Ehrlich, the fickle finger of fate, Gerald Ford, Barry Goldwater, Bobby Goodman, Peter Hannaford, Denny Hastert, Humphrey Browning MacDougall, Jim Innocenzi, LBJ, JFK, kinescope, The Lincoln Memorial, Bob Livingston, Robin Luke, Robert McNamara, Morning in America, Chris Mottola, Oahu, the Pentagon, Chip Pickering, radio actualities, Hal Riney, Santa Monica, slow boats, Smith & Harroff,  Olympia Snowe, The Sound of Music, speech modules, Steven Spielberg, John Sununu, The Tuesday Team, USC, Guy Vander Jagt, The Washington Post, Watergate, Henry Waxman, whistlestops, Don Young … & more!
53:18 10/3/23
Remembering Governor Bill Richardson, with his former Campaign Manager & Chief of Staff Dave Contarino
Dave Contarino was Bill Richardson's 2002 gubernatorial campaign manager, his first term Chief of Staff, and manager of his 2008 presidential campaign. Very few are better equipped to remember the life and legacy of Governor Richardson than Dave. In this conversation we talk Dave's own path to politics and mine his expertise specifically about New Mexico, then go in depth about the inspiration, impact, and influence of Bill Richardson...from his unconventional lifestory, to his time as a rising star in the House, stint in the Clinton cabinet, two terms as Governor, groundbreaking presidential campaign, and his focus over the past decade helping to free Americans held hostage in foreign countries (including the recent release of Britt ney Griner). This is a wide-ranging conversation about a truly original and transformational figure, the late Governor Bill Richardson. IN THIS EPISODE…Dave’s roots near Boston and path to politics via a couple of interesting internships…One of Dave’s early jobs as a DCCC staffer under then-operative Rahm Emanuel…How Dave’s career took him to New Mexico and his 101 for understanding New Mexico Politics…Dave talks the early life and political origin story of Bill Richardson…The role Richardson’s Hispanic heritage played in his political career…Congressman Richardson’s ascent in the House and how he started to become known as an international hostage negotiator in the 1990s…Why the ambitious Richardson waited 20 years after he was first elected before he ran statewide…Dave remembers some of the high points of Bill Richardson’s tenure as Governor…Dave talks Richardson’s decision to run for President in 2008 and memories of what went right & what went wrong…Some of the story behind Richardson’s surprise decision to endorse Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton in 2008…Dave goes in depth on the work Governor Richardson has done over the past 30 years to help free American hostages from foreign countries…Dave closes by speaking to Governor Richardson’s political legacy… AND ANWR, Madeline Albright, Andover, Bruce Babbitt, the big seat, Jeff Bingaman, The Boston Globe, Richard Branson, George Brown, the Cape Cod League, Bob Carr, James Carville, the Catholic Church, Henry Cisneros, Cornell University, Warren Christopher, Pete Domenici, Friends of Bill, Geronimo’s attorney, grazing fees, Brittney Griner, the Harriman Center, the head of Denver Transit, Saddam Hussein, James Inhofe, Lyndon Johnson, Judas, Sergey Lavrov, David Letterman, Manuel Lujan, Michelle Lujan Grisham, Susanna Martinez, Paul Maslin, Terry McAuliffe, Roberto Mondragon, Steve Murphy, NAFTA, Ollie North, Pasadena, Federico Pena, Mark Penn, Mark Putnam, radio actualities, the Rio Grande Corridor, Ed Romero, Pat Schroeder, the Science and Technology Committee, Hillary Tompkins, Tufts, Tom Udall, The War on the West & more!
64:28 9/26/23
Best of Pro Politics: Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the first Hispanic woman to serve in Congress
[Originally released October 2021]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 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!
48:28 9/19/23
Rich Schlackman, Democratic Direct Mail Pioneer
Rich Schlackman is best known as a pioneer of all things direct mail - and he continues to hit the mail box and also spearheads important efforts as a GC and has expanded his reach to digital messaging. In this conversation, Rich talks his early activist roots at the '68 Democratic Convention and with names like Jane Fonda and Tom Hayden...why he gravitated to political direct mail in the mid he took the "California Style" of mail national in the 80s and 90s...diving deep into his best practices and favorite some of the efforts for which he's been a General Consultant, like ousting Chesa Boudin as San Francisco DA last year. And of course a conversation with Rich is not complete without hearing how he became the leading wine expert among political consultants and getting his tips to make anyone a little smarter on the topic. This is a fun conversation with one of the most colorful and ground-breaking consultants in the industry.IN THIS EPISODERich grows up in a heavily union neighborhood in NYC and becomes active in the anti-Vietnam War movement...Rich's experiences as a protestor at the '68 Democratic Convention...Rich talks his time around activists Jane Fonda and Tom Hayden...How Rich pivots to direct mail in the 1970s...Rich innovates the "California style" of direct mail in the 70s and 80s...Rich talks the rise of the national direct mail firms in the 80s and 90s...Rich on a few of his favorite clients, including Congressman Vic Fazio, Governor Janet Napolitano, and nearly beating Newt Gingrich in 1990...Rich talks his time working for Senator Joe Lieberman...Rich's favorite Bay Area races, including figuring out how to handle ranked-choice voting...Rich recounts GCing the recent successful effort to recall San Francisco DA Chesa Boudin...Rich's insights from working with Gavin Newsom on the now-Governor's very first local race in San Francisco...Rich talks some of the most frustrating "input" received from others on his mail...Rich on the evolution of mail and targeting over the course of his career...Ten minutes picking Rich's brain on his famed expertise on wine...AND Saul Alinsky, Bill Andresen, Applecart, Ross Bates, Evan Bayh, the Berman Machine, Ruth Bernstein, billy clubs, Willie Brown, CHAID analysis, the Campaign for Economic Democracy, Fidel Castro, Jim Chapman, Chris Cooper, Barry Dill, Bob Dole, drop letters, Bob Edgar, Rahm Emanuel, Carter Eskew, gloss paper, Ruth Yannatta Goldway, Matt Gonzalez, Lisa Grove, Mandy Grunwalkd, Edd Hargett, Dan Hazelwood, Abie Hoffman, Wayne Johnson, Kansas politics, Celinda Lake, Ned Lamont, Mel Levine, Hal Malchow, Milton Marks, John McCain, David Metts, Bob Mulholland, Jerry Nadler, Joe Napolitan, No Labels, Mark Penn, phony tabloids, the Port Huron Statement, The Rare Wine Company, Norm Rice, H.L. Richardson, Ben Rosenthal, Michael Rowan, Dr. Bill Roy, Jerry Rubin, Tony Schwartz, Saul Shorr, George Soros, Andy Spahn, Bob Squier, Marty Stone, The Valley Messenger, Pete Visclosky, Voter Contact Services, Lowell Weicker, Scott Weiner, David Worley, the Yippie Revolution....& more!
55:44 9/12/23
Barry Goldwater Jr. on Growing up Goldwater, 7 Terms in Congress, & A Life in Politics
Barry Goldwater Jr. grew up in politics as the son of the influential Senator and '64 GOP Presidential Nominee. He has a one-of-a-kind story of witnessing his father's political rise and then his own political career with his House tenure spanning parts of 3 decades. In this conversation, he talks his early memories in a political household, key moments in his father's career, his own political trajectory in Southern California, and the difficulties and opportunities he's found in life after leaving office. IN THIS EPISODEBorn into a political family in Phoenix, AZ…The story of Goldwater’s Department Store and the rise of his father’s political career…The surprise that took him to a different state and different profession than expected…The coin flip that set Barry Goldwater Sr. on a path in Republican politics…Memories of the ’64 Goldwater presidential campaign…The Goldwater / JFK relationship and what a JFK vs Goldwater ’64 campaign might have looked like…The story behind Senator Goldwater urging Nixon to resign at the height of Watergate…His read on Senator Goldwater’s late-in-life pro-choice and pro-LGBT sentiments…Barry Goldwater Jr’s first race for office in a 1969 House special election…Memories of the House of the 70s and 80s…The leadership skill he witnessed of Speaker Tip O’Neill….Barry Goldwater Jr and Ed Koch team up to pass a bipartisan Privacy Act…An important lesson learned from his mother…The story behind his race for US Senate in California in 1982…His read on Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger….How he approached being out of office for the first time in 14 years in his mid 40s…The story of being on the ballot in Louisiana as Ron Paul’s VP candidate in 2008…His early thoughts on the 2024 GOP primary field…The story of Senator Goldwater’s surprisingly close connection to President Clinton…Time spent around both President Reagan and Nancy Reagan…The guerilla tactic that helped Barry Goldwater Jr win his first election…The importance of a Higher Power in his life… AND apron pockets, Arizona State University, Best Always, brickbats, William F. Buckley, Burbank, John Burton, Phil Burton, cold calls, The Conscience of a Conservative, John Dean, Dwight Eisenhower, Newt Gingrich, S.I. Hayakawa, Carl Hayden, hiding in the bushes, Jewish peddlers, Lyndon Johnson, Chiang Kai-Shek, Jack Kemp, the Lincoln-Douglas Debates, Lockheed-Martin, the Mayflower, Mitch McConnell, Mike McCormack, the NAACP, Northrup-Grunman, nylon, the Pacific Coast Stock Exchange, Nancy Pelosi, raylon, John Rhodes, Hugh Scott, shenanigans, Janet Travell, Donald Trump, the Urban League, John Van De Kamp, the wild west, Mao Zedong…. & more!
47:19 9/5/23
Bill Knapp, Partner at SKDK, on 40+ Years as an Admaker
Bill Knapp is in his fifth decade as a top Democratic media consultant and is the first K in the mega-media firm SKDK. In this conversation, Bill talks his NYC roots, the 1980 Senate campaign that launched his professional career, lessons from his mentor & eventual partner Bob Squier, key races in his development as a strategist, the '96 Clinton re-elect, 20 years as part of Mike Bloomberg's political orbit, advice for budding media consultants, and much more. IN THIS EPISODEBill’s roots on the Upper West Side of Manhattan…The three prominent figures Bill met as a child in his apartment building…Bill dips his toe into politics at Franklin & Marshall College in rural PA…The 1980 Liz Holtzman Senate campaign changes Bill’s professional direction…Bill’s intersection with mentor and future business partner, the legendary Bob Squier…Bill talks the legacy of Bob Squier…The US Senate race where Bill established himself as a media strategist in his own right…Bill goes deep inside the 1996 Clinton Presidential Re-election…Bill helps elect Mike Bloomberg Mayor of NYC in 2001…Bill’s perspective on the Bloomberg 2020 presidential with a few years’ hindsight…How Bill’s firm, SKDK, grew to the size of 100+ employees…Bill talks the skillset of his prominent business partner Anita Dunn…Bill’s advice to the next generation of political media consultants… AND $15 CPP, Adas, Avenue J, Daniel Barash, Bob Bauer, Belmont Stakes, Joe Biden, Rod Blagojevich, Jim Blanchard, Bill Bradley, Jim Brady, broad shoulders, Quentin Burdick, Jimmy Carter, Pia Carusone, Central Park, Chat GPT, cinema verité, Tony Coehlo, The Communications Company,  the crack epidemic, crusty editors, Jennifer Cunningham, the DSCC, Rich Davis, Joe DiMaggio, David Dinkins, David Doak, Bob Dole, Byron Dorgan, Rahm Emanuel, Carter Eskew, F stops, FIFA, Friday Shabbat, David Garth, Newt Gingrich, Al Gore, Bob Graham, Frank Greer, Hal the Doorman, David Halberstam, Patti Harris, the Hinckley Hilton, Harold Ickes, Independent Network News, Josh Isay, Elena Kagan, Keith Kincaid, Samantha Knapp, Stanley Kubrick, JFK, lashon hara, Joe Lieberman, Horace Mann, Minnesota boys, Damon Miranda, Rick Miranda, Mike Moore, Mike Morey, Dick Morris, Jim Mulhall, New Jersey droughts, Jackie Onassis, Mark Penn, Earl Pomeroy, Mark Putnam, Riverdale, Bob Roe, Hillary Rosen, David Sawyer, Doug Schoen, Kevin Sheekey, Oren Shur, Doug Sosnik, Mark Squier, George Stephanopoulos, David Strauss, Earl Strinden, Ray Strother, technocrats, torturing gaffers, Donald Trump, Bradley Tusk, Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge, VW Karmann Ghia, Otto von Bismarck, War and Peace, Lowell Weicker, Elie Wiesel & more!
54:41 8/29/23
Diana Hwang: Founder & Executive Director of the Asian American Women's Political Initiative
Diana Hwang is the Founder and Executive Director of the Asian American Women's Political Initiative.  In this episode, Diana talks growing up in Houston in a Taiwanese-immigrant family, her political awakening after college in Boston, what led her to start the AAWPI, how the organization has grown over the past 10+ years, her analysis of partisan trends within the AAPI her own experience running for State Senate in 2016. This is a great conversation with an innovative political thinker on the frontlines of expanding political opportunity.IN THIS EPISODEDiana's roots growing up in Houston in a Taiwanese immigrant family...How Diana became interested and involved in politics in Massachusetts...How the process around mental health legislation revealed a shortcoming in state politics...The "life changing" experience when Diana ran for a State Senate special election in 2016...How and why Diana start the Asian American Women's Political Initiative in 2009...The hurdles in getting traction for Asian American political advocacy...The impact of the 2021 Georgia mass shooting of Asian American women on Diana's work...Diana talks the mission and tools of the AAWPI...Diana on the importance of the election of Boston Mayor Michelle Wu...Diana's 101 on some of the partisan differences within the AAPI community...Diana's analysis of why Republicans ran more competitively in some places with AAPI voters in the last election...The significance of the WeChat app in organizing the AAPI community...Diana speaks to both short-term and long-term goals of AAWPI...
48:50 8/22/23
Navigating the Future: Unraveling A.I. in Politics with Media Consultant & AAPC Board Member Kelly Gibson
Kelly Gibson is the founding partner of Stronger Than Communications, where she works to elect Democratic candidates and advance progressive causes - and is a board member of the American Association of Political Consultants and faculty member of the Campaign School at Yale. Through the AAPC, she has helped lead conversations and spearhead recommendations on the intersection of Artificial Intelligence and political campaigns. In this conversation, we talk what Kelly's learned on this subject, both the opportunities and threats A.I. poses for those working in politics, and some nuts-and-bolts insight and advice on how to become a little smarter on a very complicated and evolving topic. IN THIS EPISODE…Kelly’s early roots in Buffalo and route to working in politics…The story behind Kelly starting her firm, Stronger Than Communications and some of her signature wins and races…How Kelly got interested in the topic of A.I….What makes A.I. a revolutionary technical tool…Why you should treat A.I. like a toddler…Outside of politics, how you’re interacting with A.I. whether you know it or not…Kelly outlines the A.I. recommendations she helped spearhead through the AAPC political consulting trade industry…Kelly’s take on the controversy of the DeSantis' campaign's usage of A.I. to attack Donald Trump…How A.I. can change approaches to advertising production…Smart uses of A.I. for campaigns beyond content creation…The political jobs most likely to be disrupted by A.I…The status of legal regulation of A.I. in politics…Kelly’s best practices to start using A.I…. AND Barbie, Bard, Yates Baroody, Joe Biden, Bing, Ben Cardin, DLCC, deep fakes, HMP, Martin Hamburger, Kendra Horn, Dawn Laguens, machine learning, Meta, Microsoft, Open AI, Planned Parenthood, silver bullets, solo-preneurs, stainless steel, Marty Stone, takeout taxi, true collectives, Donald Trump, Vogue, Lee Zeldin & more!
42:42 8/15/23
Democratic Pollster Lisa Grove on the Power of a Question Mark
[EPISODE ORIGINALLY RECORDED FEBRUARY 2021]Lisa Grove has been a leading Democratic strategist and pollster for 25+ years, helping elect a President, Senators, Governors, and more. She also developed a reputation for winning tough ballot measures and helped refine messaging to advance the cause of marriage equality. In this conversation (recorded February '21), she talks her roots in Oregon politics and activism, being drawn to polling, her early days in the business, starting her own firm in the mid 90s, and stories & insight from a successful career that has spanned several decades.IN THIS EPISODELisa grows up in Portland, OR inspired by the activism around her...Lisa's early jobs in politics in route to becoming a pollster...Lisa talks learning from famed pollster Nancy Belden...Lisa on her approach to focus groups and her favorite focus group stories...How and why Lisa started her own polling firm in the mid 90s...How Lisa made it work as a pollster living in Hawaii...How Lisa's chalked up a successful record on ballot measures...Lisa's work helping advance the cause of marriage equality...Some of the celebrities Lisa has worked with over the years and her current work with Billie Eilish...AND John Anderson, John Anzalone, Brian Baird, Maggie Baird, Warren Beatty, Nancy Belden, Sergio Bendixen, Anna Bennett, Ami Bera, Brian Bilbray, Graeme Blair, Shirley Chisolm, Tom Daschle, Susan Davis, Peter DeFazio, Barry Diller, Tom Donilon, Mike Dukakis, Matt Erickson, Pablo Escobar, Lily Eskelsen, feather boas, Diane Feldman, Sarah Flowers, Cesar Gaviria, Dick Gephardt, the Golden Rule, Martin Hamburger, Hanford Nuclear Site, Darlene Hooley, Jack Mormons, Ron Kind, Celinda Lake, Ed Lazarus, Norman Lear, Carl Levin, Sandy Levin, Rush Limbaugh, Jeff Liszt, Jon Macks, mai tais, Tom McCall, Mark Mellman, Howard Metzenbaum, Mr. Steak, Ralph Nader, Narcos, Finneas O'Connell, Bob Packwood, Jessica Paulson, paradise guilt, the princess ad, Christy Quirk, Rob Reiner, Barbara Roberts, Michael Robinson, Will Robinson, Rich Schlackman, Barbra Streisand, sustainable furniture, swagger, tattoos, Third Way, tissue paper flowers, Joe Trippi, Univision, Melissa Williams, Ron Wyden, Yucca Mountain & more!
45:36 8/8/23
Paul Johnson: Manager of 2 Presidentials, 8 Winning Senate Races, DSCC Exec Dir, Senate Chief & More
Paul Johnson's resume reads like it should cover three careers...managing multiple presidentials, manager/general consultant on twelve Senate races, DSCC Executive Director over two cycles, and several years on Capitol Hill as a Senate Chief of Staff. In this conversation, we talk his roots in Minnesota politics, rising up the ranks through Mondale '84 to manage Tom Daschle's first Senate race in 1986 and then Bob Kerrey's first Senate race in 1988...then staying part of the Kerrey world for the next 20+ years. And eventually managing  presidential campaigns for both Senator Bob Graham and General Wes Clark - plus why Paul has been based out of Shreveport, LA for the past 20 years. This is a great discussion through a fascinating career with one of the most accomplished operatives in Democratic politics.IN THIS EPISODEPaul grows up in the Twin Cities, inspired by the political tradition of Minnesota Democrats...The one time Paul ran for office in his own right...Paul leads a Minnesota brigade to help Walter Mondale in the '84 Iowa Caucus...Paul manages Tom Daschle's first US Senate race in 1986...Paul talks the political impact of the "farm crisis" of the 1980s...Paul connects with Bob Kerrey in the 1988 cycle and stays part of his political world for 20+ years...Paul breaks down the missteps and missed opportunities from the Bob Kerry '92 presidential...Paul speaks to the legacy of political courage shown by Bob Kerrey...Paul's approach as a Senate Chief of Staff on the Hill...A little color on some of the famed friction between President Clinton and Senator Kerrey...Paul's memories of running the DSCCC during the 96 and 98 cycles...Paul goes deep on the boom and bust of the Wes Clark '04 Presidential campaign...An important lesson learned from his time managing Senator Bob Graham's '04 presidential...The Paul Johnson "3 Ms" of what makes an effective campaign manager...Why Paul has been based out of Shreveport, LA for 20+ years...AND...318 area codes, 441 AD, Jim Abdnor, agrarian movements, B+ trip notes, background noise, Scotty Baesler, Brent Blackaby, Jerry Brown, Jim Bunning, Larry Cohen, Susan Collins, Jim Crounse, Jim Crow, Howard Dean, Ron DeSantis, John Edwards, Russ Feingold, Don Foley, Jane Fonda, the Fritz Blitz, going batshit, Grandmother's Restaurant, Gary Hart, Hubert Humphrey, Larry Huynh, Dave Karnes, John Kerry, Carl Levin, Gene McCarthy, meat slicers, Carol Moseley Braun, Sheila Murphy, Ben Nelson, Parade magazine, party mergers, Rudy Perpich, press release routes, Ronald Reagan, Jody Severson, Bob Smith, soft money, Harold Stassen, Pete Stavrianos, Dick Swett, Bob Torricelli, Paul Tsongas, WCCO, Winnebagos, Debra Winger & more!
51:48 8/1/23
Chris Mottola, GOP Media Consultant, on Four Decades Making Ads
Chris Mottola is in his fifth decade as a Republican media consultant, with nearly 400 campaigns under his belt - including seven presidential campaigns and working with eleven US Seantors and six governors. His client list includes the highest echelons of GOP names like Bush, Dole, McCain, Giuliani, Specter, Rubio, Pataki, Sununu, Frist & many more. In this conversation, we talk his nearly lifelong passion for film, the non-political techniques he's brought to his political work, what drew him into campaigns, lessons learned from some of the smartest operatives who preceded him, and the stories behind some of his most memorable campaigns and effective TV ads.IN THIS EPISODEChris’s roots as a Philly kid…The movie that ignited Chris’s passion for film at age 7…Chris breaks down his embrace of “formalism” in filmmaking…A memorable first press conference in his first real political job…Handling over 50 spots in one cycle as a young NRCC production staffer…Chris tells lessons learned from legendary admakers Bob Goodman and Charles Guggenheim…Chris on the influence of “his favorite person on campaigns" , pollster Arthur Finkelstein…Chris talks some of his signature wins in Wisconsin and Florida as he establishes himself as a media consultant…Chis explains how a narrow loss to Patty Murray in the 1992 Washington Senate race that spurred his growth as a consultant…Chris’s work for longtime PA Senator Arlen Specter and the drama around his 2009 party switch…Chris’s time riding the campaign bus with Bob Dole in 1996…Chris on his work for colorful Montana Senator Conrad Burns…The story behind Chris’s creation of the first gay rights spot for a Republican Senator…Three techniques that make Chris’s spots a little different…Chris’s 1970s moonlighting as an offensive football guru…How Chris embraced women voiceover artists…Why Philadelphia over-indexes on political media consultants and production talent… AND 80/20 questions, Adagio for Strings, JJ Balaban, the barbers’ union, Brian Bellick, Ed Blakely, Don Bonker, Bertolt Brecht, Tom Brokaw, Buckely v. Valeo, the C&S Club, the Capitol Hill Club, Jimmy Carter, Alex Castellanos, Ronald Castille, Rod Chandler, commuter schools, Gary Cooper, Earl Cox, Mouse Davis, Dickens’ novels, Fund for a Conservative Majority, David Garth, Tony Earl, Wilson Goode, Rod Goodwin, Bill Green, Gary Hart, Jesse Helms, Bernard Herrman, Edward Hopper, the Houston Gamblers, Asa Hutchinson, Peter Jennings, Andi Johnson, Ted Kennedy, laundry lists of grievances, Connie Mack, Buddy MacKay, Joseph Mankiewicz, David Marsden, George McGovern, Sally Mercer, Michealangelo’s Pieta, Jack Mudd, Mike Murphy, Patty Murray, Neil Newhouse, old auctioneers, Neil Oxman, George Pataki, pearl clutching, potato peelers, Hester Prynne, Jerry Rafshoon, Dan Rather, Resonance Theory, the run-and-shoot, Tony Schwartz, Doc Schweitzer, seersucker suits, Judy Shepard, Matthew Shepard, Saul Shorr, Don Sipple, Gordon Smith, Bob Squier, Greg Stevens, stick time, Temple University, Tommy Thompson, Pat Toomey, the Voight-Kampff test, Bill Walsh, the World Football League, you bet....& more!
54:31 7/25/23
Congresswoman Elizabeth Holtzman: From Vanquishing a Political Institution to Becoming One
Elizabeth Holtzman is best known for her legendary primary upset of the Dean of the House in 1972, making her the youngest woman elected to Congress and propelling her to national notice as part of the House Judiciary Committee Impeachment Hearings of Richard Nixon. Even beyond that specific era, the diversity and duration of her public service is nearly unrivaled...including working in 1960s Georgia to advance civil rights, her role bringing 100+ Nazi War Criminals closer to justice, becoming the first woman to be a District Attorney in New York City,  the only woman to serve as NYC comptroller, and an impactful political legacy spanning several decades that continues to this day.IN THIS EPISODEMemories of growing up in an immigrant family in Brooklyn, NY...An incredibly formative experience working on civil rights issues in Albany, GA...Her instrumental role bringing 100+ Nazi war criminals to justice in the 1970s...How she became the youngest woman elected to Congress by beating the Dean of the House in 1972...Stories of taking on the Brooklyn political machine...An unsettling comment from a veteran member after she's first elected to the House...Memories of her service on the House Judiciary Committee during the Nixon Impeachment Hearings...Her rejection of the revisionist view of Gerald Ford's pardon of Richard Nixon...Analyzing her very narrow loss for US Senate in 1980...Looking back on her stint as both Brooklyn District Attorney and NYC Comptroller...Her view on the "finest mayor NYC has had"...Comparing her 2022 House race to her first run in 1972...Her view of the current Supreme Court as "illegitimate"...The couple of times her path crossed with Donald Trump in NYC politics...AND Abraham Lincoln High, Samuel Alito, Birch Bayh, Jimmy Breslin, bureaucratic gobbledygook, the CIA, CORE, Jimmy Carter, cattle prods, Manny Celler, Frank Church, Cracker Barrel, John Culver, Al D'Amato, Mike Dewine, William O. Douglas, Meade Esposito, the first piece of paper, Flatbush, Gimbles, The Godfather, Barry Goldwater, the instrumentality of the state, Jacob Javits, John Lindsay, Carolyn Maloney, James Meredith, Pat Moynihan, NAACP, Radcliffe, John Rhodes, Peter Rodino, Russian pogroms, SNCC, Bernie Sanders, Hugh Scott, shoe leather, smoking guns, John Paul Stevens, Adlai Stevenson, Tammany Hall, Clarence Thomas, Larry Tribe, whistleblowers, witch hunts & more!
52:19 7/18/23
Michael Rowan & A Political Journey from Bethel, Alaska to Caracas, Venenzuela
Michael Rowan's political career started in a small Alaksan fishing village in the 1960s and has ascended to heights of helping elect Presidents, Senators, Governors, and working in 17 countries. Michael was a contemporary and colleague of some of the most influential political minds in the modern era - Larry O'Brien, Joe Napolitan, Tony Schwartz, Marshall McLuhan, among many others. And the campaigns he had an impact on includes names like Bill Clinton, Pat Moynihan, Andrew Young, Howard Metzenbaum, Mike Gravel, and more. And after working against Hugo Chavez in Venenzuela, Michael and his family had to flee after death threats from Chavez henchmen. Michael Rowan has a great political story and shares much of it in this conversation.IN THIS EPISODEMichael’s move from Long Island to rural Alaska sparks an interest in politics…How organizing a political slate in a small fishing village leads to Michael’s career in campaigns…Michael is the campaign manager for Mike Gravel’s successful upset of an incumbent Senator in 1968…Michael’s take on the quixotic Gravel presidential campaign of 2008…Michael’s early intersection with political consulting legend & future business partner Joe Napolitan…Michael talks the influence of his colleagues Marshall McLuhan and Tony Schwartz…How Michael helped Howard Metzenbaum beat American hero John Glenn in an Ohio Senate primary…Michael goes in depth on the political skills of two of his iconic clients, Andrew Young and Pat Moynihan…Michael’s connections to Bill Clinton’s core campaign message in 1992…Michael talks his work against Hugo Chavez in Venezuela that led to death threats against him and his family…Michael diagnoses the threats of polarization in American politics and a possible solution…AND agoraphobia, the Alaska Model, anthropological dreamworlds, asymmetric media, Jeff Bezos, Tony Blair, Rafael Caldera, James Carville, coding nightmares, Jim Dunn, Claudio Fermin, Eskimos, Buckminster Fuller, David Garth, Ernest Gruening, Charles Guggenheim, Jay Hammond, Michael Harrington, Robert Kennedy, Kent State, Jiddu Krishnamurti, the Kuskokwim River, Maslow’s Hierarchy, Ed Mezvinsky, Elon Musk, Larry O’Brien, Sarah Palin, Carlos Andres Perez, Ronald Reagan, Ralph Rivers, Winthrop Rockefeller, Rorschachians, Manuel Rosales, St Johns University, Milton Shapp, Sargent Shriver, Shelby Storck, Margaret Thatcher, wave theory, weird containers, Dick Wirthlin, William Butler Yeats & more!
57:12 7/11/23
Andi Johnson, Trailblazing Democratic Media Consultant & Partner at GPS Impact
Andi Johnson, a partner at GPS Impact, is a veteran Democratic media strategist who has been a trailblazer as one of the first women in Democratic media. She's worked for leading Democratic political figures for over 30 years...names like Obama, Klobuchar, Leahy, Inslee, Bob Casey Jr, and many more. In this conversation, Andi talks growing up in a political family in Eugene, OR, how she somewhat accidentally found a path into political media, mentoring under the late Democratic admaker Joe Slade White, some of her favorite races she's worked on...from Ben Nighthorse Campbell (as a Democrat) in 1988 to helping elect Cherelle Parker Mayor of Philadelphia just a few weeks ago. This is a great talk through a fascinating career with a groundbreaking woman in media consulting and one of the most successful admakers in Democratic politics. IN THIS EPISODEAndi grows up in a politically-minded family in Eugene Oregon…A teenage Andi rubs shoulders with Senator Ted Kennedy and his 1980 presidential campaign staff…Andi remembers the politics of her native Oregon in her formative years…Andi’s fortuitous intersection with two iconic media consultants, Roger Ailes and Joe Slade White…Andi talks the "two revolutions" in production of political media…Andi on what she learned from her early colleague Joe Slade White…Andi talks an early key race for (then Democrat) Ben Nighthorse Campbell in Colorado…Andi distills her approach to admaking…Andi talks one of her favorite ads for VT Senator Pat Leahy…Andi breaks down the appeal of two of the most memorable ads she produced for the Obama 2008 Presidential…Three Bedroom Ranch and Rearview Mirror…Andi’s memories working for the Klobuchar 2020 presidential campaign…Andi talks the recent success of her client Cherelle Parker, the next mayor of Philadelphia…Andi recalls a groundbreaking ad she helped write in 1998 for then Congressman Jay Inslee…Andi talks what she learned from longtime partner Saul Shorr…Andi discloses her strangest work habit and her advice to budding media consultants…Andi goes deep on her experiences as a traiblazing woman in political media & how the business has changed on that front over the past generation... AND audible gasps, Michael Bennet, Kit Bond, bungalows, Ken Burns, George W Bush, The Cascades, clean young men, Bill Clinton, Christopher Close, Coro Fellows, Dr. Ruth, the Daisy Ad, John Danforth, Danish mothers, Darlingside, David Dixon, Anita Dunn, The Eugene Weekly, Sandra Feldman, Norma Ferrer, The Foreign Service, Booth Gardner, Neil Goldschmidt, Mandy Grunwald, Charles Guggenheim, The Harriman Center, Sincere Harris, Mark Hatfield, Hillman & Carr, Peter Hoagland, Jay Howser, Val Hoyle, Tom Jones, Bill Knapp, Monica Lewinsky, Loony Tunes, Al Lowenstein, Dottie Lynch, MTV, Tom McCall, John McCain, Gunn McKay, Barbara Mikulski, Wayne Morse, the naked word, Janet Napolitano, Bob Packwood, Aren Platt, Prince, Questlove, Ed Rendell, The Responsive Chord, Will Robinson, rum raisin ice cream, Bill Sarpalius, Sawyer Miller, Tony Schwartz, Bill Sheffield, Shep Sherbell, Soundhound, Bob Squier, Ken Swope, Roy Temple, Tom Udall, Greta Van Fleet, the voice of God, WHYY, wandering in the desert, Jim Weaver, Randi Weingarten, Rick White, Williams College, Harriet Woods & more!
53:55 7/4/23
Dick Gephardt, former Democratic House Leader & Two-Time Presidential Candidate
Dick Gephardt served 30 years in the House, including 10 years as Democratic Leader - and ran for President in both 1988 and 2004, winning the '88 Iowa Caucus. In this conversation, he talks his working class roots in St. Louis, what drew him to public service, his early days in city government, coming to the House in his 30s, and how he quickly rose in the ranks of the Democratic leadership and was on the precipice of winning the Democratic nomination for President in 1988. This is a great conversation with one of the most important and impactful political figures of his generation. IN THIS EPISODEGrowing up in blue-collar St. Louis as the child of a milkman and secretary…The political inspiration provided by JFK…A young Dick Gephardt’s first taste of precinct organizing…His inclusion in the group of insurgent “Young Turks” in St. Louis politics…Why he took the plunge to run an underdog race for Congress in 1976…Memories of early days in the House and a great Tip O’Neill story…How Congressman Gephardt advanced within the Democratic leadership…What led him to run for President in 1988, how he won Iowa, and why the campaign ran out of gas on Super Tuesday…Why he took a pass on running for president in 1992…How he looks back on the 1994 GOP Revolution led by Newt Gingrich…The reforms he put in place as House Democratic leader…Memories of dramatic House floor votes…The one-term member he describes as his “hero of democracy”…Memories of being in the VP mix across a number of elections…Congressman Gephardt talks the importance of longtime aide Joyce Aboussie within his political organization…The Dick Gephardt 101 on how to get the most out of a trip to St. Louis… AND Andrews Air Force Base, Joe Badaracco, big cigars, Dick Bolling, David Bonior, Bill Bradley, Lou Brock, bullshit excuses, George HW Bush, the Cannon Building, Jimmy Carter, Alfonso Cervantes, Bill Clinton, Tony Coehlo, the Cuban Missile Crisis, Jack Danforth, Dick Darman, Tom Daschle, Charlie Diggs, Tom Downey, Mike Dukakis, John Edwards, General Eisenhower, Stan Fike, Tom Foley, Bob Gibson, Dan Glickman, Al Gore, Don Gralike, Jesse Jackson, Ed Jenkins, Hamilton Jordan, John Kerry, Jim Leach, Joe Lieberman, Gillis Long, Douglas MacArthur, Manifest Destiny, Marjorie Mezvinsky, George Miller, Stan Musial, near violence, Richard Nixon, Phelim O’Toole, Bill Ramjue, the Reagan tax cuts, the Rio Grande Valley, rudimentary TV ads, Red Schoendienst, Dred Scott, Paul Simon, soft money, suffering fools, Leonor Sullivan, Stu Symington, Harry Truman, Tim Wirth, Jim Wright & more!
55:17 6/27/23
Analilia Mejia, co-Exec Dir of The Center for Popular Democracy & Bernie Sanders' 2020 Political Director
Analilia Mejia is currently the co-ED of The Center for Popular Democracy...and prior to that she was Bernie Sanders 2020 Presidential Campaign Political Director with stints in the Biden Administration, with the Working Families Party, & deep roots in union organizing. In this conversation, she talks being raised in working class Elizabeth, NJ as a daughter of immigrants, the life-changing role that a union job meant for her family, and the through line of empowering people that has run through her entire career in and around politics.IN THIS EPISODEAnalilia talks growing up in a working poor household in Elizabeth, NJ as the daughter of immigrants...Analilia's "political awakening" in 1988...Analilia cuts her teeth in politics as a union organizer in Chicago...Analilia explains the role of the Working Families Party, whom she led in New Jersey...Analilia on her path to becoming Bernie Sanders '20 Political Director & how she tackled the job...Analilia on why she continues to identify as a "Bernie Bro"...The role Analilia played in bringing Bernie voters into the Biden coalition...How Analilia joined the Biden Administration and why she left it to work again on the outside...Analilia on her role as Co-Executive Director of the Center for Popular Democracy & the role CPD is playing...Analilia weighs in on how progressive orgs should be cognizant of communicating smartly to voters...Analilia's career advice to young operatives...AND AOC, Saul Alinsky, analogies, Ana Maria Archila, Sarah Badawi, Ella Baker, Build Back Better, George HW Bush, Wendy Chun-Hoon, Detroit Action, Michael Dukakis, finding a full humanity, George Floyd, fireworks, food insecurity, Jeff Flake, the free clinic, gummy bears, Fannie Lou Hamer, The Highlander School, Pramila Jayapal, jiu-jitsu, Arianna Jones, John Kerry, LUCHA Arizona, The Montgomery Bus Boycotts, Vivek Murphy, the New Georgia Project, people chess, radical transparency, Chuck Rocha, Jane Sanders, Faiz Shakir, Singer sewing machines, strep throat, Donald Trump, Nina Turner, the US Constitution, Jeff Weaver...& more!
49:33 6/20/23
Legendary Democratic Strategist Bob Shrum
Bob Shrum is a platonic ideal of a guest for this podcast…someone who, as a teenager, met JFK at the 1960 Democratic Convention and decades later worked as a strategist for several presidential candidates, big city mayors, Governors, and Senators. In this conversation, we talk his early passion for politics, the fortuitous chance to get his foot in the door as a speechwriter for a NYC mayor, how he connected with Senator Ted Kennedy and helped write his famous ’80 Convention Speech, and Bob’s 3 decades as a leading Democratic admaker and strategist – plus his current role as Director of the USC Center for the Political Future. IN THIS EPISODEBob’s early interest and passion for politics…Memories of meeting JFK as a teenage volunteer at the 1960 Democratic Convention…Bob gets a foot in the door as a speechwriter for NYC Mayor John Lindsay…Bob’s take on what makes for a good speechwriter…How taking the wrong job diverted Bob from politics from several years…How Bob entered the political orbit of Senator Ted Kennedy…Bob talks his role helping write Senator Kennedy’s most famous political speech from the 1980 Democratic convention…Bob on what a Reagan vs Kennedy race might have looked like…Bob talks some of his early consulting clients including Senators John Glenn and Barbara Mikulski…Bob’s longtime relationship with British Prime Ministers Gordon Brown and Tony Blair…Memories of presidential campaigns from Gephardt ’88 to Gore ’00 and Kerry ’04…Bob talks hanging up his political spurs after the ’04 campaign and his current role at the Center for the Political Future at the University of Southern California…Bob games out how he’d approach the 2024 election were he a Biden strategist… AND Bertie Ahern, Dick Aurelio, banging pots and pans, Ehud Barak, Don Beyer, Barbara Boxer, Brandeis University, Pat Buchanan, George W. Bush, butterfly ballots, Pat Caddell, Camden Yards, carousing and hijinx, Jimmy Carter,  Bob Casey Sr, Bill Clinton, Alan Cranston, Culver City, Ron DeSantis, Tad Devine, David Doak, Mike Donilon, East Los Angeles Junior College, Esquire Magazine, feedback loops, Diane Feinstein, Tom Foley, Orville Freeman, Jim Gilmore, giving up the ghost, Richard Goodwin, Jeff Greenfield, Averill Harriman, Kamala Harris, Hubert Humphrey, the Lexington Market, Joe Lieberman, Abraham Lincoln, John Lindsay, Douglas MacArthur, Mac Mathias, Kevin McCarthy, George McGovern, mind’s ear, Amber Miller, Walter Mondale, Tom Morgan, Adam Nagourney, New Times, Tip O’Neil, Carey Parker, Reince Priebus, robot rules, Chuck Robb, Pierre Salinger, John Sexton, Jeff Shesol, Sargent Shriver, Shrumalot, John Smith, Steve Smith, Adlai Stevenson, Bob Squier, Suite 9300, Laurence Tribe, Harry Truman, Tommy Tuberville, Mark Warner, Cornel West…& more!
54:11 6/13/23

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