Robby Mook is one person to thank if House Democrats keep the majority

They say that politics is never personal. It is just business. But the fact is that you need the right personalities to do the business of politics. One announcement this week may have slipped your attention. But it could help determine whether Democrats are able to keep their House majority.

Robby Mook will become president of the House Majority PAC, which is the political action committee of the House Democrats. This is a big deal for numerous reasons. Next to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the House Majority PAC is quite arguably the most important political organization working to elect House Democrats. It raises funds, targets districts, buys time for campaign ads, and develops the message.

{mosads}When I had chaired the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in 2011, my very first decision was recommending to Nancy Pelosi that we make him our executive director. Mook has what author John Gaddis had in mind in his book, “On Grand Strategy,” which is the ability to pursue a bold vision while adroitly managing unanticipated challenges along the way. Gaddis writes that some strategists are hedgehogs unalterably fixed on a grand goal but unable to manage obstacles, while some are foxes so fixed on minutiae that they lose sight of the end goal.

Mook is a true grand strategist because he can function while constantly reconciling those conflicts. He kept his eye on the 25 seats we wanted to win in 2012, but understood the unique terrain of individual districts. Even as our prospects for taking back the majority dimmed, Mook helped us make the strategic and tactical decisions that helped us pick up a net of eight seats, which was more than the pundits had assumed was possible.

He led with often undervalued qualities in campaign management. He built a cohesive motivated staff, worked longer hours than anyone else, trusted and empowered the people around him, and prioritized budgets by making sure our revenues went to where they mattered in competitive districts. That is a diplomatic way of saying the man was a tightwad. I once asked him if he would prefer two orange juice cans and a string to cut phone costs. Mook asked me how much time he had to think it over.

After a successful term directing the DCCC, Mook took one of the most challenging jobs in American politics when he was hired to be campaign manager for Hillary Clinton. This role made him the most second guessed human on earth. I remember sitting with him at a restaurant in Manhattan when he was considering whether the job was right for him. He gave me all the reasons why he should not do it, followed by the only reason that he needed to sign up. He believed that Clinton should become president.

The 2020 election will be a complicated cycle for House Democrats. They have built a healthy margin but will be competing down ballot in a volatile and unpredictable cycle. Presidential coattails may be whipping erratically in shifting winds. That is when you need the very calm and cool campaign management of Mook. While his appointment as president of the House Majority PAC did not race in headlines across the front pages, it may lead to the headline that the party needs in 2020: “Democrats Keep Majority.”

Steve Israel represented New York in Congress for 16 years. He served as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee from 2011 to 2015. He is the incoming director of the Institute of Politics and Global Affairs at Cornell University. He is on Twitter @RepSteveIsrael.

Tags Congress Democrats Election Finance Government Hillary Clinton Nancy Pelosi Politics President Republicans Robby Mook Steve Israel Washington White House

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