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Political Director for the Obama Campaign Michael Cuzzi Talks Campaigning with Saint Anselm Students

November 07, 2013

Kate Giaquinto
The New Hamsphrie Institute of Politics
(603) 222-4115

One year to the day since candidate Barack Obama got the votes that would make him President of the United States for a second term and last night's Pizza & Politics guest, Michael Cuzzi, remembers it well. Pizza and Politics with Michael Cuzzi

Cuzzi, who worked as Obama's Political Director during the 2008 election and on the New Hampshire steering committee for the 2012 re-election campaign, gave a talk to more than 30 students called Presidential Campaigning: The Hardest Job You'll Ever Love...and Why You'll Leave at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics & Political Library on Nov. 5. 

During the informal discussion, Cuzzi highlighted the jobs he held in different campaigns, and expressed the great highs and lows he felt working for presidential candidates like John Kerry and Barack Obama.

"I would encourage everyone to go into campaigning because it is a unique opportunity...and if you are good at what you do, you can rise very rapidly," he said, but also admits "it's the most demanding job you will ever have."

"You basically have to give up your life...things happen around the clock."

Cuzzi, who began doing campaign work while still in college, said that campaigning for Barack Obama was different than other campaigns he had worked for, especially during the New Hampshire Primary.

Politics major and New Hampshire Institute of Politics student ambassador Nolan Varee '16, attended the discussion and said "I want to work in campaigns at some point and I thought it was really cool how you can shoot up the ranks. That was the most interesting thing for me."

Cuzzi continued and said campaigning was different for Obama because everything was large scale and "nothing matched the level of excitement as Obama coming to New Hampshire."

In 2006, "it was the very first time he [Senator Barack Obama] had stepped foot in New Hampshire. He had no political relationships here but 900 people would show up at an event." Cuzzi compared it to other front-runner candidates in past elections who would only see around 200 people at what was a well-attended event.

"It was a level of engagement none of us were ready for," said Cuzzi.

He explained that Kerry was old school New Hampshire Primary as far as campaign events. Candidates would follow past traditions, having meetings in people's homes and in other small venues.

The Obama campaign had to essentially abandon these traditions and they were criticized for doing ‘rock star' events Cuzzi said.

"We didn't have intimate New Hampshire meetings, which is arguably one of New Hampshire's strengths. It added a layer of physical distance. It was hard to have true retail moments."

Varee also said, "Michael reaffirmed to me that because New Hampshire is so small, you can have access to these big name politicians running for president."

At the end of the discussion, students spent time asking Cuzzi questions and asking for advice for how to get involved in the 2016 election.

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