The former Obama aide who helped Britain's Conservatives stay in power Thursday told BuzzFeed News that Hillary Clinton, rather than U.S. Republicans, should be taking hope from the victory of Britain's right.
Prime Minister David Cameron is "a progressive leader" who "pushed for gay marriage and a world climate change deal and proposed to increase child care subsidies and cut taxes on the minimum wage," Jim Messina said in a telephone interview from London, where he said he'd just departed a celebratory tea at 10 Downing Street.
Messina served as a top adviser to the Conservative campaign, and spent the run-up to the election in London, and said he'd slept about an hour in the last two days. He helped steer a re-election campaign that combined intense attacks on Labour leader Ed Miliband with policies — from support for nationalized health care to intervention in the housing market — that would fit easily inside the U.S. Democratic Party. (Labour, which is well to the left of the Democrats, was advised by Messina's old boss, David Axelrod, who declined via email to comment on the lessons for Clinton from the U.K. election.)
But Cameron clashed with Miliband over the incumbent's relatively hawkish foreign policy and support for, and from, London's booming financial industry.
Messina said he'd learned from Bill Clinton that elections should always look forward, and said Miliband "was talking about going back to the '70s and '80s."
He declined to draw any direct lines between this election and next year's American presidential campaign.
"I don't think this election has anything to do with Hillary Clinton," he said.
But Messina said Clinton could take heart from the results.
"Cameron showed, again, that all presidential elections are about the future and Hillary is by far the right candidate in the U.S. to do that," Messina said.
He said Cameron would likely follow Obama's example in staying neutral in the U.S. election, as Obama did in Britain's.
He said he'd been struck by the difference between the electoral system — in particular, Britain's cap on spending, at just over £31 million per party, that means that election campaigns aren't dominated by television advertising.
"The very hard cap on spending was a very good thing," said Messina, who said it created an environment in which the press had more power than it does in the U.S.
Britain has a "way more partisan press corps than what we have in the U.S.," Messina noted, though he disputed the notion that the press had tilted toward the Tories.
Messina said he will return to continue to work for the super PAC Priorities U.S.A., which he co-chairs and whose relationship to Clinton's campaign has at times been complicated.
"I plan to do whatever else I can to help," he said.
Ben Smith is the editor-in-chief of BuzzFeed and is based in New York.
Contact Ben Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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