A Man To Watch: Mike DuHaime – A Key Christie Operative

        He’s a remarkable talent. This guy has a lot of raw talent. He’s just got great judgment. – Karl Rove talking about Mike DuHaime in 2008

Governor Christie who appears to be his own man, speaking from his seemingly singular gut with ideas that he says are his own, has in fact benefited tremendously from the skills and advice of key advisors. One such advisor is Mike DuHaime, who after serving in key positions in three national presidential campaigns, went on to become the lead strategist for Christie’s victory in 2009. DuHaime’s influence has been recognized in the press by both PolitickerNJ and TIME. He was ranked number 7 on PolitickerNJ’s 2010 Power List following Bill Palatucci, Mary Pat Christie, Jeff Chiesa, Steve Adubato, Rich Bagger, and David Samson. In 2010 TIME listed DuHaime in its “40 under 40” where his comments were indistinguishable from those of his boss: “The most overlooked issue these days is the unsustainable escalating costs of pensions, benefits and salaries associated with a public workforce.”

This week we heard comments from DuHaime complimenting Christie following his speech to the American Enterprise Institute in Washington,“He didn’t go seek the attention. He did big things and then went and talked about it. He’s completely turned Trenton upside down.” Duhaime appears confident but self-deprecating, humble, likable and measured – the opposite of Christie. However, he does not act entirely behind the scenes and has spoken in public occasionally helping us to understand his influence better. Among other matters he has weighed in on strategy in the governor’s campaign, Reform Jersey Now, and has been teaching a popular course on “Political Campaigning” at Rutgers with Maggie Moran, his Democratic counterpart during the Christie-Corzine campaign.

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A Hoboken resident and Rutgers alumnus, he learned early as a child about politics in “rough and tumble” Passaic County where both his mother and father held local elective positions. He began his political career in 1997 as  the one-man campaign staffer for Anthony Bucco’s successful bid to unseat State Sen. Gordon MacInnes. He went on to become Executive Director of the NJ Republican State Committee, Regional Political Director of the Bush/Cheney re-election campaign, and  Republican National Committee Political Director. In this latter position RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman described him as “a huge talent – politically smart, excellent manager, exceptional at grassroots and experienced at building and managing a hundred-million dollar budget.”

Next he served as campaign manager for Rudy Giuliani’s 2008 presidential campaign. Although unsuccessful, DuHaime was credited with keeping the campaign alive longer than expected. At least two individuals in this campaign were later hired by Governor Christie: Maria Comella, as Deputy Chief of Staff for Communications, and designated tweeter, Patrick Jones. Afterward he became Political Director for John McCain’s presidential campaign, doomed by McCain’s erratic behavior and a superior opponent.

In October 2009 the overly optimistic DuHaime weighed in on the importance of  Bergen county which he called a classic swing county that Christie will win. Although Christie lost Bergen County by 6,000 votes, the rest was history. In February 2010 after the smoke had  cleared, Rider University recorded a Campaign Manager’s Conference to discuss behind the scene tactics, including two videos well worth listening to that feature DuHaime. He gets into the “weeds” of the campaign on specific tactics but overall attributes the victory to “sticking to the message and to the spending plan.” He later served as a key member of the 10-person Transition Committee.

Not resting on his laurels he went on to serve the National Republican Senatorial Committee as Director for Independent Expenditures during the mid-term elections, continued his role as a Christie advisor and took a lead position in managing the not-so independent Reform Jersey Now (RJN). Also known as “the secretive slush fund,” this group raised $624,000 and finally revealed its donors, including groups suspected of hiding from “pay-to-play.” It did not reveal its expenditures, of which by federal law only half are allowed to be spent on electioneering. In December 2010 he defended RJN’s robocalls which urged listeners to call Sen. Paul Sarlo’s legislative office and “tell him to stop blocking Governor Christie’s efforts to end abuse of public employee benefits.” In late December DuHaine stated the group would call it quits.

DuHaime has said,“New Jersey is a great training ground for politics in general and especially for a Republican because it’s hard.” Having held important jobs during his 15 year career, he had had his challenges, but has learned along the way, and is someone to watch in New Jersey. He continues advising Christie and would play a key role in any future political activities Christie might undertake.

Comments (4)

  1. Jay Lassiter

    …breathlessly sing the praises of the Christie administration.

    The mind reels….

  2. JackHarris

    1.) DuHaime on the Christie campaign:

    but overall attributes the victory to “sticking to the message and to the spending plan”

    This is essentially how Obama won in 2008 and why he was able to defeat Clinton in the primaries. DuHaime gets it.

    2.) Christie may have lost Bergen by 6,000 votes but he won Middlesex by about 5,000 votes.  But more interestingly & importantly, he located McCain’s NJ HQ in Woodbridge in 2008.

    DuHaime is a guy who really gets the political dynamics of NJ and seems to clearly understand the fact that rank and file NJ Democrats  and the county structures are actually quite conservative — even many “liberal” democrats tend to be personally conservative.

    This understanding is a big reason why Christie has been so successful so far.

    They understand the fault lines and know where to put pressure.

    Progressives in NJ can’t win and hold power until they understand that fact.

    This is a very important piece by Bill. If Bill is doing this work regularly, I hope he’s being invited to give briefings by state, county, and progressive democratic leaders.  

  3. Bill Orr (Post author)

    In an interesting piece on Bill Palatucci – another “Man To Watch” – in today’s Courier Post, Jane Roh quotes Palatucci as saying, “The governor’s office in New Jersey is nothing more than a political stepping stone for Chris Christie.” She goes on to point out: “Among the political press corps, sirens sound because Mike DuHaime, who ran Rudy Giuliani’s 2008 primary bid, is informally Christie’s chief political strategist. Except for one event last fall when Christie campaigned for now Gov. Terry Branstad of Iowa, DuHaime has not visited any early primary states since Christie became governor.” Such gives credence to Christie’s refrain that he is not a presidential candidate for 2012. In effect what DuHaime does or does not do is an indicator of Christie’s strategies and plans.  


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