Connecting Issues With Families
When Rob Jesmer first arrived in Washington, D.C. to work as a Senate page, the U.S. was debating whether to wage war in the Persian Gulf.
Senators sparred over the framework of the War Powers Act. Soon, there would be floor votes on an amendment to the Civil Rights Act, taxes on domestic crude oil, the B-2 bomber program and public debt limits.
Washington’s newest resident was captivated by all the heady conversations.
“I was raised in a classic 60 Minutes family,” Jesmer says. “My dad pushed us to talk about how issues of the day affected his business and our family, so I was already dialed in to lively discussions over policy.”
A semester inside the Senate helped sharpen Jesmer’s sense of crafting policy that resonated with families like his—and win over voters.
“I was attracted to the process,” he says thirty years later. “We were focused on showing how good policy can also be good politics—a campaign rule I’ve used ever since.”
A Knack For Tight Narratives
“One of the things about Rob is that he’s very direct, and I appreciate that,” Texas Republican Senator John Cornyn told Roll Call in 2010. “I think that’s one of his key assets: his ability to cut through the garbage and get right to the point.”
At the time, Jesmer was working with Senator Cornyn at the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC). He had already led campaigns in Minnesota, Illinois, Mississippi and Tennessee, ran field operations for the National Republican Congressional Committee and managed Senator Cornyn’s successful 2008 reelection campaign.
When Senator Cornyn spoke with Roll Call in 2010, the two men were just a few months away from helping engineer a net gain of six seats in the midterms—and solidifying a new, formidable party narrative for American voters.
“The votes that year changed the political dynamics in Washington and in states from one end of the country to another,” claims a recent opinion piece in the Washington Post. Jesmer’s contribution to the 2010 midterms represented a major victory. At the same time, he was also focused on keeping a winning team in office with good policy, good politics—and simple messaging.
“What I always tell people that I work for is: The best thing you can do to get yourself reelected is do a really good job at the job you were elected to do,” Jesmer once told C-SPAN.
“Voters don’t want dissertations, they want short bites of information,” he said. “You’ve got one shot to get your story right.”
It’s a formula that has helped Rob Jesmer manage campaigns, run congressional offices, direct field operations, advise presidential candidates and guide messaging for corporate clients.
“You come up with a narrative for a campaign,” he explained on C-SPAN, “and try to hold on to that narrative for as long as you can.”
Blending Public Affairs With Political Strategy
“When I started in this business, clients seemed unfamiliar with how persuasion campaigns aimed at members of Congress also needed a public affairs component,” Jesmer says.
“Now there’s an understanding that success comes from using those tools and platforms in tandem, along with your knowledge of the inside game to put real points on the board,” he says.
Jesmer says his approach to putting points on the board is still grounded in all those conversations he had with his family growing up.
“Everything we do has to be relatable for voters and campaign targets,” he says.
“It’s easy to throw out ideas for clients about how they should conduct a campaign or respond to challenges,” he says. “What’s more complicated is laying out the consequences of how a campaign is conducted.”
In the end, it’s connecting good policy with good politics.
“As we calibrate campaigns and responses based on this approach,” he says, “that’s how we keep things simple—and win.”