Beyond the Horse Race: What the Election Can Teach Us About Making Change

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It was called the most important election of our lifetimes, but so much of the coverage has been the same old horse race stuff. Not on Dastardly Cleverness, though: in this episode we dig deep with experts who have worked with Barack Obama, John McCain and the Democratic National Committee, among others.

Kevin Lewis was one of the first people to join Barack Obama’s presidential campaign back in 2007. He went on to serve as the White House Director of African-American Media, as press secretary to Attorney Generals Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch, and as Obama’s post-presidency spokesperson. Kevin is now a senior adviser at a Washington-based consulting firm, Blue Engine Message and Media.

Dan Schnur no longer belongs to any political party, but he has a background as a top Republican consultant. He was the Director of Communications for John McCain’s 2000 presidential campaign, and the chief spokesperson for former California Governor Pete Wilson. He now teaches at the University of Southern California and the University of California at Berkeley, and is frequently interviewed about politics by major media outlets.

Enrique Gutierrez is the Hispanic Media Director and the Southern Region Press Secretary for the Democratic National Committee, which he joined in the summer of this year. Before that he was the Communications Director for Voto Latino, after working for the Arizona Democratic Party, including during the push in Arizona by the Hillary Clinton for President campaign.

This time on Dastardly Cleverness in the Service of Good, we hear from all three about the crucially important election we just had: not for the usual “Who’s up and who’s down,” but for their deeper insights about change, especially how you make it happen.

One theme that emerged that may surprise: authenticity. As Kevin Lewis says, “Candidates were being themselves, and they weren’t necessarily following the traditional playbooks.”


Blue Engine Message and Media

Democratic National Committee

USC’s Dan Schnur page

“The Soul of America,” by Jon Meacham


Kevin Lewis is a senior communications professional with over a decade of experience in high stakes leadership roles, most notably serving as spokesman for the Obama White House and U.S Department of Justice.  Drawing on his experience managing crisis communications, fostering media relations, and executing complex media strategies in the national spotlight, Kevin’s work as a member of Blue Engine’s strategic management team includes counseling corporate and nonprofit clients on issues related to legislative advocacy, regulatory change and reputation management.

Kevin most recently served as chief spokesperson for former President Barack Obama. As a “key member of the team determining how Obama communicates with the public,” according to the Washington Post, he helped develop Obama’s post-presidency public profile, message events, and establish a brand management process for the office.

During the course of two terms in the Obama Administration, Kevin held several roles in the White House and under Attorneys General Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch, including acting-communications director, principal deputy communications director, senior advisor for strategic communications and press secretary. He managed national and regional press roll-outs on signature priority issues including criminal justice reform, civil rights, community-police relations, LGBT rights, defending Americans against hate crimes, combatting opioid abuse, strengthening national security, and advancing anti-corruption efforts. Kevin provided hands-on crisis response support following high-profile tragedies including mass shootings in Charleston and Orlando, and terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino.  Prior to his time at the Justice Department, Kevin served as a White House spokesman in the Office of Media affairs and press aid in the Office of the Press Secretary.

As one of the first Obama Campaign staffers in Chicago, Kevin served as a press aide on the exploratory committee just five days before then-Senator Obama announced his historic run for president. He went on to serve as deputy press secretary on the Obama Campaign’s staff in Michigan for the 2008 General Election and later a spokesman on the 2009 Inaugural Committee before ultimately joining the Obama Administration.

Dan Schnur is a Professor at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School of Communications and the University of California – Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies.

He has been teaching courses in politics, communications and leadership at UC-Berkeley since 1996 and at USC since 2004. Dan has also taught at the John F. Kennedy School of Government’s Institute of Politics at Harvard University and George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management. He is the founder of the USC/LA Times statewide political poll.

Previously, Dan worked on four presidential and three gubernatorial campaigns as one of California’s leading political strategists. He served as the national Director of Communications for the 2000 presidential campaign of U.S. Senator John McCain and was the chief media spokesman for California Governor Pete Wilson.

In 2010, Dan was appointed Chairman of the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC), where he implemented groundbreaking campaign finance disclosure requirements. Dan also was a founder and cochairman of the Voices of Reform project, the bi-partisan statewide effort whose work laid the foundation for California’s landmark redistricting reform.

After completing his FPPC term, Dan registered as a No Party Preference voter and launched Fixing California, an organization dedicated to campaign finance and political reform. In 2014, Dan ran for statewide office as a non-partisan candidate for California Secretary of State.

Dan has been an advisor to the William & Melinda Gates Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Broad Education Foundation, the Pew Charitable Trusts, the James Irvine Foundation, the Public Policy Institute of California and the Stuart Foundation on a variety of K-12 education and college and workforce preparedness efforts.

Dan’s commentaries have appeared in several newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Sacramento Bee, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and the New York Times. In addition, he has been an analyst and political commentator for CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, and National Public Radio.

Dan is a graduate of the American University in Washington, D.C.

Enrique Gutierrez is a political operative and communications professional with almost a decade of political experience having worked on various campaigns, on Capitol Hill, and for Democratic Party committees.

During his time in politics, he has worked to help elect an ER Doctor to the U.S. Congress, helped a State Representative in his quest to become Mayor of Houston, and handled communications for the Arizona Democratic Party in 2016. In his current role, Enrique serves as the Hispanic Media Director and Southern Regional Press Secretary for the Democratic National Committee.

Enrique graduated with his Bachelor’s Degree from the California State University, Northridge and a obtained his Master’s Degree from The George Washington University. Enrique currently lives in Brentwood, Maryland with his wife and two kids.

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