Jim Messina, President Obama’s 2012 campaign manager, sat down with ABC News’ Michael Falcone and answered viewer questions from Facebook in a Web exclusive after his appearance on the “This Week” roundtable today.
Messina looked back at the “white knuckle” moments of the 2012 campaign.
“I think [it was] after the August debt-limit crisis, and August 2011 where our numbers were, you know, historically low, and then of course after the first debate when everyone was very, very concerned,” he said. “Even then I believed we would win, both times, but there were definitely some white knuckle moments.”
Even as he reflects on the past year, it’s clear he’s also keeping an eye on the next presidential campaign and the potential Republican contenders.
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Q: Looking ahead to 2016, do you think Republicans have a deeper bench to work with in terms of potential presidential candidates than the Democrats?
A: “I don’t. I think their bench is problematic. If you look at the current standing of the Republican Party nationally, it’s the lowest it’s been in 30 years, in part because of positions they’ve taken on the issues. If you look at the 2012 primaries, Governor Romney was forced to go so far right in the primaries because of who the base of the Republican Party is that by the time he got to the general election, he couldn’t get to the center. He took positions on immigration reform, on social issues like contraception that were incredibly damaging to him. And I think until the Republican Party deals with its internal fights, their nominees are going to have real problems.”
Q: If you could choose a candidate on whose campaign to work in 2016, whom would you choose and why?
A: ”Well, after getting to work with Barack Obama, that’s a tough choice. I’m going to look at all the candidates. You know, what I think is important is someone who, like President Obama has something to say, has a vision for this country. That’s who will inspire me and a whole generation of Americans to work for him.”
Q: What got you interested in politics and who has been a major influence in your career?
A: “So, I’ve been in politics my entire life. When I was in fourth-grade, I ran Jimmy Carter’s campaign in Roosevelt elementary school. We were badly defeated by Ronald Reagan. I did it in college. I’ve always cared about issues and substance. And politics was always the best way to do that. And my mentor in politics is a guy in Montana named Dave Hunter, who is the wisest political operator I’ve ever met. Who took a skinny kid in college and taught him about politics.”
Q: What did you feel was the pivotal point in the campaign that turned the tables in favor of Obama?
A: “Well, once that election became a choice between President Obama’s vision to move this country forward and Mitt Romney’s policies, I always thought we were going to win that choice. And so I think over the summer when that choice was clearly defined, I continued to feel very, very good about the campaign.”
Q: “What two words would you use to describe the president?”
A: “Intelligent and committed. … I spent a whole lot of time with him over the last four years. And this is the guy who was always the smartest guy in the room. Who understands policy and understands what we need to do to get it done.
“And I think committed. There’s many times in the first four years where he could have made the political decision and he did what was right for the country. When everyone around him told him not to bail out the auto industry, it turned out to be one of the best things we had done. When members of both parties said ‘give up health care, you can’t get it done.’ You know, five different times during health care, we went in and told him it was dead. And five different times, he put it together and passed a bill that has made millions of Americans’ lives better. That’s why he’s the leader who I believe in.”
Q: iPhone or Blackberry?
A: “iPhone, no question.”
Q: Favorite movie of the past year?
A: “I love ‘Lincoln.’ No surprise from a political guy.”
Q: And your comfort food?
A: Comfort food is macaroni and cheese. Gotta have it.”
Q: Since we’re right in the midst of March Madness. Who are your final four picks and who’s going to win the whole thing?
A:“Well, I’m crushed that the University of Montana was defeated in the first round. My alma mater. I have Louisville winning it all. I have Ohio State. Unfortunately, I picked Wisconsin, and they’re already out of it. And Gonzaga, and they’re out, too.”
Q: So, the president has Indiana and you have Louisville.
A: “I have Louisville. Now, I am number one in my office pool right now. We’ll see how long that lasts.”