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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  • rate this

    Comment number 467.

    Re #466

    US doesn't OWE China anything. China has been simply massively investing in US T-bonds considering them the safest investment in the world. PRC is thus vitaly interested in a success of US economy, not in its collapse.

    Btw. Last year US economy grew at 2.8% rate. The economically strongest (by far) EU country - Germany is growing at 0.1%.

    [I won't mention France, Italy, Spain...]

  • rate this

    Comment number 466.

    Prosperous economy?!?!?!?
    How much do you owe to China again!

  • rate this

    Comment number 465.

    Wishing Tories the best of luck. I voted for Obama in 2012, but will be not be voting for any arrogant posh boys. UKIP all the way in 2015. Nigel is great: always on TV holding a pint and smoking a fag. The Un-politician.

  • rate this

    Comment number 464.

    Might as well get Osama sorry Obama while they are at it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 463.

    459.Inconvenient facts - ...are very aware when it comes to things that have an impact on them. On those matters they are well & objectively informed. ...."

    You are having a laugh aren't you?

    Abortion & gay rights are two of the big campaign issues Stateside...

    ...both issues that have nothing at all to do with most & on which the average voter is anything but well informed...

  • rate this

    Comment number 462.

    Paul, you are absolutely right. The politics between the UK and US is an absolute scam. It runs much deeper than the visible government we see as well and it was JFK in 1961 who made a speech that said a ruthless conspiracy is going on. The meet at Bilderberg, Trilateral and Committee 300 meetings which the electorate is absolutely not allowed to know ANYTHING that is discussed there!

  • rate this

    Comment number 461.

    A more honest approach will lead to the admission

  • rate this

    Comment number 460.

    I think most voters already hold tweets from politicians like Cameron in utter contempt and I think there is a danger for the Tories in simply highlighting their failures by using such mediums of communication.The next GE will be won in around 100 marginals largely in the Midlands and North West where good local campaigning on the doorstep is still the best method of electioneering

  • rate this

    Comment number 459.

    @449. Americans are very aware when it comes to things that have an impact on them. On those matters they are well & objectively informed. The average citizen works far harder than any European and their labour productivity at all levels exceeds the UK, Europe & that includes even Germany. No surprise they remain the largest, most prosperous & influential economy.Who cares what UK shirkers think?

  • rate this

    Comment number 458.

    We are already seeing the impact of Crosby with a daily diet with a nauseating racist and immigration theme across the media with campaigns directed at "essex man". We will now see this appointment a flooding of similar messages on facebook and twitter.I am not sure how the new appointee will reconcile a message from Cameron/Crosby that may see Obama stopped and searched if he comes to London?

  • rate this

    Comment number 457.

    quite a team they are building, first the "nationalist" oz adviser with his immigrant go home van, now one from the land of the deceit and home of the crazed.. it should mean they get elected alright (seriously!!) however, the price will be a bitter place to live in and almost zero dignity for uk in the world. We need a fresh system of democracy which actually represents people's real views&needs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 456.

    Is this the same stratagist that was hired by the NO campaign in scotland to be there PR mogul, and in his first week uncovered online opinion of independence was 72% Yes - 28% NO... and the system is called... *Patriot system* urgh. Well after sept 18th 2014 this will not be a burden for Scotland anymore and your all welcome to move here and enjoy a progressive society rather than this miss.

  • rate this

    Comment number 455.

    This will be fun, they can tell more lies in US politics than our people do.
    I assume somehow we shall be paying for him, to enlighten us all , from the public purse....hey ho

  • rate this

    Comment number 454.

    Let's face it - it doesn't matter who any political party employs to run their campaign. They're all, with just a few exceptions, in politics for their own ends. You really think that 'Joe public' concerns them? Democracy has become a joke, globally! Politicians don't run governments, CEO's do!

  • rate this

    Comment number 453.

    After the contemptuous way Disastrous Dave and George “Grub Bank” Osborne have treat the majority of the UK electorate the tories are going to need more than a strategist and a few appeasing sweeteners to throw at voters to win the election. People don’t forget a government like this in a hurry, that's for sure.

  • rate this

    Comment number 452.

    Doesn't really matter who the Tory party decides to hire they have ensured that the British public have thoroughly had a guts full of their contemptuous behaviour and will hopefully be going out and staying out of power. Their only hope would be to ditch the Lib Dems and get rid of David Cameron and George Osborne before even contemplating a victory at the next election.

  • rate this

    Comment number 451.

    UK has to be desperate to hire Obama's gang of Wall Street lackeys to come to their rescue--- Get RID of all these corporate-politic Sum-bags!

  • rate this

    Comment number 450.

    Jin Messina has just sold his soul to the devil. I hope he quickly becomes disillusioned with English upper-class twits!

  • rate this

    Comment number 449.

    UK public are far more 'Informed' than average person in US, and for that I believe it is money & effort wasted. The deceit & misrepresentation Obama thrives on will not cut-it in UK.

  • rate this

    Comment number 448.

    Jim Messina sounds like a horrible person. He claims to be a Democrat but quickly changes sides when money is flashed in front of his eyes. How disgraceful he is now helping the Tory Party stay in power - the party who is trying to take away our healthcare, government benefits
    & privatise everything !


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