Jim Messina, Obama’s 2012 campaign manager, joins Charlie Crist’s team

 

mcaputo@MiamiHerald.com

Jim Messina, campaign manager for President Obama's 2012 reelection, has joined Charlie Crist's campaign for governor.

"RT to help me welcome @Messina2012 to the People's Team. Join us at http://charliecrist.com," Crist said via Twitter on Monday night.

Shortly after that announcement, the campaign touted another big-hire from Obama's team: Teddy Goff, digital director for the president's reelection campaign, who oversaw its social media, web video and online advertising efforts.

Goff has been hired along with his firm, Precision Strategies, which includes other top Obama advisors.

For Crist, the announcement serves multiple purposes: It underscores the close ties Crist has with Obama's political team, it quiets concerns from some Democrats doubting Crist's party bonafides and it softens the blow of the mysterious departure of Bill Hyers late last year, who quit before he officially became campaign manager.

Hyers declined to comment on the move, as did Crist.

Crist couldn't be reached nor could Messina, who's expected to act as more of a senior advisor instead of a campaign manager.

In a recent interview with the Miami Herald, Messina downplayed talk of becoming Crist's campaign manager. But he clearly expressed his support and admiration for Crist, a Republican turned independent turned Democrat.

"Gov. Crist was obviously very helpful to the 2012 re-elect. He did whatever we asked and was very helpful giving strategic advice,” Messina said.

“He gave a very important Democratic National Convention speech,” Messina said. “It framed the election in an important way. And he was very important to the fact that Barack Obama won Florida.”

Well before the 2012 elections, Messina and Crist met at an Orlando restaurant where, Messina said, Crist offered his unqualified support for President Obama's reelection effort.

Counting Messina and Goff, at least nine former campaign workers from Obama's 2008 or 2012 campaigns have signed up for Crist's campaign. Gov. Rick Scott's campaign announced last week that it was bulking up, naming spokeswoman Melissa Sellers as campaign manager and state Sen. John Thrasher as campaign chairman.

Crist leads Scott in the polls, but the Republican is walloping Crist in fundraising. Crist is posting solid fundraising numbers, and the news of Messina should help boost him further.

Crist is leading his main Democratic rival, former Weston state Sen. Nan Rich, by double digits in polls of their party's primary.

The Republican Party of Florida's communications director, Susan Hepworth, tied Messina to Obamacare and PolitiFact's "Lie of the Year" in this statement: "As Charlie Crist tries desperately to cover up his failed record he will definitely need help from the ultimate spin doctor who sold the lie of the year that 'if you like your healthcare plan you can keep it.'"

Judging by the laser focus on Crist -- and private conversations -- Scott's backers and Florida Republican operatives are worried about a Crist comeback. The addition of Messina could make them even more concerned.

But Obama's far less popular now than he was in 2012, and he's dragging down some Democrats in the polls as well.

Still, the Obama campaign was a cult of Obama. Without Obama, it's unclear how well this Florida iteration of his operation will fare.

We're going to find out.

Read more Political Currents stories from the Miami Herald

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