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Steve Schmidt

Steve Schmidt

Stephen Edward Schmidt[1] (born September 28, 1970)[2] is an American communications and public affairs strategist who has worked on Republican political campaigns, including those of President George W. Bush, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Arizona Senator John McCain. He is best known for pushing McCain to select Sarah Palin as his running mate. He specialized in "message development and strategy".[3]

Schmidt was the senior campaign strategist and advisor to the 2008 presidential campaign of Senator John McCain.[4] He was a Vice Chair at the public relations firm Edelman[5] until he stepped down in July 2018.[6]

In June 2018, Schmidt renounced the Republican Party as "fully the party of Trump".[7]

Steve Schmidt
Stephen Edward Schmidt

(1970-09-28)September 28, 1970
North Plainfield, New Jersey, U.S.
EducationUniversity of Delaware, Newark
Political partyRepublican (1988–2018)
Independent (2018–present)

Early life and education

The son of a schoolteacher and a telecommunications executive, Schmidt grew up in North Plainfield, New Jersey, where he became an Eagle Scout, a tight end on the high school football team,[8] a two-year member of the National Honor Society, and senior class vice president. In 1988, he was one of two graduating seniors voted "most likely to succeed" by his classmates at North Plainfield High School.[9] He handed out campaign materials for Democrat Bill Bradley's 1978 Senate campaign.[10]

Schmidt attended the University of Delaware from 1988 through the spring of 1993, majoring in political science.[11] During this time, he registered as a Republican. He left three credits short of graduating because he did not pass a math course; Schmidt has said that he has been diagnosed with a learning disability that makes higher math difficult for him.[8] He joined the Delta Tau Delta fraternity,[9] was a member of the campus Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) program, and did field work for Republican candidates in Delaware, sometimes wearing campaign buttons to class.[11] Schmidt graduated in the class of 2013.[12]


Steve Schmidt and his ex-wife, Angela,[13] have three children.[14]


Early campaigns

In 1995, Schmidt managed the unsuccessful campaign for Kentucky Attorney General of Will T. Scott, who is formerly a Justice of the Kentucky Supreme Court.[15] This Kentucky campaign's advertising strategy was featured in the second edition of George Magazine.

In 1998, Schmidt ran California State Senator Tim Leslie's unsuccessful race for Lt. Governor of California.[16] Also that year, he was the Communications Director for California State Treasurer Matt Fong's unsuccessful campaign to unseat U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer.[17] In 1999, he was the Communications Director for Lamar Alexander's presidential run, leaving in June when the campaign reduced its senior staff.[18]

Washington, D.C.

Schmidt with President George W. Bush in January 2006

Schmidt with President George W. Bush in January 2006

By late 2000, Schmidt was communications director of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.[19][20]

In 2001, he was the spokesman of the National Republican Congressional Committee,[21] becoming the Communications Director by 2002.

Schmidt joined the Bush administration as a Deputy Assistant to the President and Counselor to Vice President Dick Cheney. In 2004, he was a member of the senior strategic planning group, led by White House adviser Karl Rove, that ran President George W. Bush's re-election campaign; Schmidt oversaw the reelection "war room".[16] In 2005 and 2006, he was the White House strategist responsible for the U.S. Supreme Court nominations of Samuel Alito[22] and Chief Justice John Roberts.[16]


In 2006, Schmidt left the White House to become the campaign manager in the re-election campaign for California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.[22] From there, he became a partner in Mercury Public Affairs, part of Fleishman-Hillard International Communications, in charge of Mercury's operations in California.[23]

2008 McCain presidential campaign

On July 2, 2008, Schmidt was appointed to head up day-to-day operations of the McCain campaign in response to concerns that the campaign lacked coordination and a clear message. Rick Davis retained the formal title of "campaign manager".[24][25]

Press commentary

The New York Times described Schmidt's management as having transformed the McCain campaign into "an elbows-out, risk-taking, disciplined machine", crediting him with aggressive responses to press criticism and creative methods of manipulating the news cycle.[26]

Time's Michael Scherer, in an opinion piece from September 15, 2008, relating to Schmidt's involvement with John McCain's presidential campaign, stated that Schmidt, the "lord of outrage, has a long and prosperous career ahead of him".[27]

Stance on gay rights

Schmidt voiced his support for gay rights at a meeting of the Log Cabin Republicans, a gay Republican group. He said: "I just wanted to take a second to come by and pay my respect and the campaign's respect to your organization and to your group. Your organization is an important one in the fabric of our party."[28]

Schmidt said about his lesbian sister and her life partner: "On a personal level, my sister and her partner are an important part of my life and our children's life. I admire your group and your organization and I encourage you to keep fighting for what you believe in because the day is going to come."[28]

In February 2013, Schmidt along with 74 other Republicans co-signed an amicus brief to the Supreme Court of the United States in support of overturning Proposition 8. "The die is cast on this issue when you look at the percentage of younger voters who support gay marriage", he was quoted as saying. "As Dick Cheney said years ago, 'Freedom means freedom for everybody.'"[29]

Departure from the Republican Party

In May 2018, when President Donald Trump moved the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, sparking violent Gaza border protests, Schmidt said Trump "has blood on his hands".[30]

On June 19, 2018, Schmidt formally withdrew from the GOP over Donald Trump's policy of separating immigrant families at the U.S. border with Mexico. He also cited Republican leadership for their failure to challenge the policy. Schmidt said of Trump, "We have in America—right now, at this hour—to understand that you have a lawless president, a vile president, a corrupt president, a mean, cruel president, who is seeking to remake the world order."[31]

He tweeted "the Republican Party ... is fully the party of Trump. It is corrupt, indecent and immoral. With the exception of a few Governors like Baker, Hogan and Kasich it is filled with feckless cowards who disgrace and dishonor the legacies of the party's greatest leaders ... Today the GOP has become a danger to our democracy and our values."[32]

Describing his new political orientation, he stated:

This Independent voter will be aligned with the only party left in America that stands for what is right and decent and remains fidelitous to our Republic, objective truth, the rule of law and our Allies. That party is the Democratic Party.[33]

Howard Schultz's possible 2020 run

On January 28, 2019, it was reported that Schmidt, along with Democratic consultant Bill Burton, had been hired to help shape a potential presidential run by former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz.[34]

Other professional activities

JUST Capital

Schmidt serves on the board of nonprofit research organization JUST Capital alongside Arianna Huffington, Deepak Chopra, and others.[35]

Words Matter Media

In August 2018 Schmidt launched a podcast with Elise Jordan focused on the Trump presidency.[36] Schmidt parted ways with the podcast when he walked out in the middle of an episode in which Jordan and executive producer Adam Levine questioned Schmidt about his role as adviser to potential 2020 presidential candidate Howard Schultz.[37]

Game Change

Schmidt is portrayed by Woody Harrelson in the HBO film Game Change. The film, based on chapters of the book of the same title by political journalists John Heilemann and Mark Halperin, focuses on the choice of Sarah Palin as John McCain's running mate in the 2008 United States presidential election. Schmidt is shown as pushing for the choice of Palin, then afterward conceding she was unqualified for the job, including that she had a limited knowledge of current affairs.[38] Schmidt himself voiced his approval of the film, saying that "it tells the truth of the campaign"[39] and that watching the film was tantamount to "an out-of-body experience".[40]


Citation Linkwww.freerepublic.comFree Republic Forum, January 11, 2010
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Citation Linkwww.washingtonpost.comRomano, Lois (August 21, 2008). "The Silver Bullet: Steve Schmidt Makes Sure His Candidate Knows Exactly What He Is Shooting For". The Washington Post.
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