Tories hire Obama campaign chief Jim Messina

Jim Messina and President Obama A fellow presidential aide described Jim Messina as "the most powerful person in Washington you've never heard of"

The Conservative Party has hired Barack Obama's campaign manager Jim Messina for its general election campaign team, BBC Newsnight has learned.

Sources confirmed that he would act as a campaign strategy adviser to the Conservative party.

A lifelong Democrat, Mr Messina masterminded the US president's successful 2012 re-election campaign.

The political parties in Westminster are readying themselves for the general election, now under two years away.

Lynton Crosby The Conservatives hired Australian strategist Lynton Crosby, known as the Wizard of Oz, in November

The Conservative Party hired Australian strategist Lynton Crosby in November.

The Tories are hoping to emulate Mr Obama's re-election against a backdrop of economic problems. Many other governments that have sought re-election during economic turbulence have been punished by voters at the ballot box.

The Conservatives are also thought to hope that Mr Messina will bring to their operation the same binding marriage of social media and political organisation that many in the US credit with securing Mr Obama a second term.

Start Quote

I have long admired Prime Minister Cameron. While I will not be moving to London, nor will I be managing any type of day to day political operations, I will be offering strategic campaign advice leading up to 2015”

End Quote Jim Messina

Mr Crosby is said to admit privately that this area is not his strength.

Mr Messina will not lead the campaign as he did in the US, sources said, but instead will be "reporting in to the Conservatives' senior management team", and remain based in the US.

He will report directly to Mr Crosby and Conservative Party co-chairmen Grant Shapps and Lord Feldman. Conservative sources stressed he would have no involvement in party policy.

Speaking of his appointment, Mr Messina told Newsnight:

"I have long admired Prime Minister Cameron. While I will not be moving to London, nor will I be managing any type of day to day political operations, I will be offering strategic campaign advice leading up to 2015."

The Conservative leadership will have to work hard to ensure their 2015 campaign does not fall victim to the same issues as the 2010 general election strategy, when, observers believe, there was a problem with too many important voices at the top of the campaign, including Steve Hilton, George Osborne and Andy Coulson.

Leading thinkers

Having worked for Democrat senators and Congress representatives, Mr Messina became Mr Obama's deputy chief of staff in 2008. At that time another of the president's advisers, Dan Pfeiffer, described Mr Messina as "the most powerful person in Washington you've never heard of".

In 2011 Mr Obama asked him to leave his job at the White House and decamp to Chicago to head up his re-election strategy there.

President Obama and advisers in situation room Mr Messina became Mr Obama's deputy chief of staff in 2008 before leaving to oversee his re-election campaign

Before he began he canvassed the opinion of some of America's leading CEOs and cutting edge thinkers: Google's Eric Schmidt advised him on managing the information and resources of a billion-dollar re-election team; Apple's Steve Jobs spoke to him about increasing message reach; Steven Spielberg about how to capture the attention of the American public; Vogue's Anna Wintour gave him tips on Obama-themed merchandise.

Alongside these conversations Mr Messina is also said to have read up on 100 years' worth of campaign histories.

His central insight for the Obama 2012 project was that the campaign would be very different from the 2008 campaign, which was characterised by upbeat feel-good messages. This time round it would require meticulous gathering and monitoring of voter information.

The 2012 campaign spent greater time and resources highlighting the negative qualities of Mr Obama's Republican rival for the presidency, Mitt Romney, and it placed a huge emphasis on the exploitation of technology.

Headache for Labour

In January 2013, Mr Messina began a new post-election role as the head of Organizing for America, the new identity of the Obama for America database which he had run during the 2012 election campaign. The organisation is devoted to mobilising support for legislation in Obama's second term.

There are already established links between UK Prime Minister David Cameron's team and Mr Obama's Democrats.

Barack Obama and David Cameron In 2012 Mr Cameron visited the US in a trip widely seen as an endorsement of Mr Obama

In the run-up to the TV debates of the 2010 UK general election campaign, the Tories brought Obama adviser Anita Dunne over to advise Mr Cameron on how to handle the debates, which are a familiar feature of US presidential races.

Then, in the year of the presidential election, Mr Cameron flew to the US in a trip interpreted by many as an endorsement of Mr Obama. Mr Cameron travelled with Mr Obama to watch a college basketball match in the crucial swing state of Ohio, and heavily praised the US president in his state dinner speech.

As deputy chief of staff to Mr Obama, Mr Messina helped get Congress to its 2010 vote paving the way for gay people in the military. In the UK, Mr Cameron faced deep hostility in his own party, in the Church and across the country for driving through legislation to allow gay marriage.

The appointment of Mr Messina is likely to worry Labour leader Ed Miliband, who so far has put in place markedly less of his general election campaign and is privately being urged to make progress.

Mr Miliband might have hoped to secure a big Obama hire for his own efforts.

For more on this watch Allegra Stratton's report on BBC Newsnight on Friday 2 August at 10.30pm on BBC Two, then afterwards on the BBC iPlayer and Newsnight website.

Allegra Stratton Article written by Allegra Stratton Allegra Stratton Political editor, BBC Newsnight

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Read full article


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  • rate this

    Comment number 247.

    If the only plan your party has, is to screw the people until the rich need to add in, you no longer represent or are needed by the people. Oil, minerals, coal ect, came from the earth that we all live on. We have all lost family to protect britania, we all deserve a fair place at the table.
    You can't sugar coat this @uk over DAVE

  • rate this

    Comment number 246.

    #241 SaChingford

    "Get over it ,septic"

    What are you? Two?

  • rate this

    Comment number 245.

    Sounds more like bells, whistles & razzmatazz than anything meaningful. And, who is really paying for all this? British voters are tired of all these self-justified, celebrity-style carnivals & see straight through it for what it really is. I suspect this will have a negative effect. No doubt too, there are plenty who have "long admired" Mugabe while he's put money in their pocket.

  • rate this

    Comment number 244.

    Re: 235. Pam Lai
    "I thought you had to be an etonian to be part of this government."
    Well, I for one refuse to become an eat tony un.

    Tony Disposal Instructions:

    Send him on another visit to Iraq, unaccompanied by his normal taxpayer funded baggage, where he could claim to have been responsible for more Iraqi deaths than Saddam!

  • rate this

    Comment number 243.

    @Steve_M-H  and someonewhocares

    Half the people on here make everything into a personal attack and nothing is achieved,ever heard of divide and conquer? Your the turkeys that vote for christmas instead on uniting to discuss what we ALL need to make the system right and based on us the people.

    It takes one hell of a big foot going down to make your voice heard when were this far gone.

  • rate this

    Comment number 242.

    To win the next election, I can see why the Tories are going to need some one who can walk on water.

  • rate this

    Comment number 241.

    213. kcwhattrick

    Get over it ,septic

  • rate this

    Comment number 240.

    This country is already finished, simple as that....

  • rate this

    Comment number 239.

    Police state for everybody. Welcome to the future, is this anything you wished for? Hiring bigger bs artists to teach the english bs'ers how to mind control us lol. Weak. You r already picking on the unemployed, sick, elderly, you have frozen pay for some of the middle class, what's you finale? every quid won for england goes to london. The country is suffering, do you think we need more?

  • rate this

    Comment number 238.

    @222 claussim.
    "Obama is a TORY?"

    USA doesn't have any left/right though,does it - just different degrees of right - and we're going just the same.

  • rate this

    Comment number 237.

    The usual dumb left wing comments.. you people really have no clue. As some of the more observant of you have noticed, its not about left and right any more. Its about self interest groups seeking and holding onto power for its own sake and promising you idiots the earth playing to your prejudices to get it.

    You lot need to wake the hell up and vote for something different not these 3 fakes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 236.

    Tories had one term too many already..

    .. it will be so sweet never to see Cameron's face again

  • rate this

    Comment number 235.

    I thought you had to be an etonian to be part of this government.

  • rate this

    Comment number 234.

    This is where Jim Messina ends his adventure. Even if they bring Machiavelli, this government of corporate/ banking friends will not survive.

  • rate this

    Comment number 233.

    I really hope that the Conservatives can win the next election. If they lose then the county will be run by the unions again.

  • rate this

    Comment number 232.

    @ 213.kcwhattrick
    #.......Actually "gotten" is a word we got from you English. It fell out of use in the Mother Country but not in her Colonies. Do stop blaming us for your corrupted English..."
    ....Correct old boy, as my old English Master pointd out to us...."he/she forgot & he/she HAD forgotten"....We got & We HAD gotten. you have respected our beautiful language more than we have :)

  • rate this

    Comment number 231.

    I don't care if thy hire the Archangel Gabriel - nothing on earth would induce me to vote these spoilt, selfish, greedy, rich boys back into power. they have ruined education, the NHS, treated the disabled and the disadvantaged with contempt. broken promises over Media legislation and destroyed too many people's livelihoods whilst only created meaningless low paid work

  • rate this

    Comment number 230.

    Local people need to stand,not the party clones who can't do anything but tow the party line,i really believe that wholesale change is needed.
    At the next election the choice is so, so poor.
    Who do you vote for? every party standing is so tainted by past events currently i can't vote for any of them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 229.

    It's going to take a lot lot more than this to get you re-elected Dave.

  • rate this

    Comment number 228.

    @where am I 

    Im sorry but i say things like this to try and get people on board,i cant start a political revoulution on my own and there certianly isnt enough people aware of caring at the moment to do it

    People seem to forget who slayed british industry and the NHS in the first place.Labour is useless and lack the working class staff it had now industries gone but tories are only for the rich


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