June 14, 2012
The day after Jim Messina quit his job as White House deputy chief of staff in January 2011, he caught a plane to Los Angeles, paid a brief visit to his girlfriend, and then commenced what may be the highest-wattage crash course in executive management ever undertaken.
He was about to begin a new job as Barack Obama’s campaign manager…
Messina is convinced that modern presidential campaigns are more like fast-growing technology companies than anything found in a history book and his own job like that of the executives who run them.
“What they’ve done is more readily applicable to me, because they all started very small and got big very quickly,” he says.
Messina came to this insight through a relationship with someone keenly attuned to these changes and famous for having groomed two other young men to run a very large enterprise: Eric Schmidt, Google’s executive chairman. Messina considers him a mentor.
“Jim and I met in the 2008 campaign and just hit it off on a personal basis,” Schmidt says. “We became very good friends.” Schmidt was an early sounding board and later arranged many of the meetings with CEOs.