Obama's schemer


The guy who has Karl Rove's old job—deputy chief of staff to the president—was in Boise last weekend as a guest of the Idaho Democratic Party ... and of his mother in Nampa.

While Jim Messina, 39, bragged of being a "private schemer" (as opposed to a public speaker), he was more mama's boy than Bush's brain.

"How am I doing, Mom?" Messina asked in the middle of his speech at the Democrats' annual Frank Church Banquet. (Mom was gushing.)

[Photo at right: adoring fans try to get Messina to chill downtown; word is he ended up with Idaho Sen. Nicole LeFavour and friends at Reef. LeFavour stole the camera citydesk borrowed and snapped this shot because citydesk could not get a decent angle.]

Messina, who said he consulted with White House speech writers prior to his engagement in Boise, seemed to project much of his speech in the general direction of his family, just right of center stage. The president's top speech writer actually told him to look at his mother if he got nervous.

Earlier in the day, BW asked Messina how he got a job that involves meeting with the President of the United States every morning and, as he perhaps jokingly said later, helping run the world and storing the nuclear codes.

Messina thought for a moment and replied that it was winning lots of elections that landed him a windowless office within earshot of President Barack Obama.

"I don't lose," he said. (Later he admitted to a losing campaign for Jimmy Carter at Boise's East End Roosevelt Elementary School; Messina is a 1988 Boise High School graduate, by the way.)

Obama can reportedly hear Messina cursing through the walls at the White House. In his introduction to Messina's keynote, Rep. Walt Minnick recounted a news story on Obama's prolific fundraising in which Messina was quoted saying, "It's like getting the keys to a friggin' Ferrari."

Minnick, who softened some of Messina's language, said that Messina bragged about money raining down in the final months of the election season, while Minnick spent much of that time "dialing for dollars."

"I can't tell you how many times my good friends and supporters put me on hold to send you their friggin' money," Minnick said.

Boise Mayor Dave Bieter enthusiastically proclaimed the date—March 7—as Jim Messina day in Boise.

Messina recalled several times in the last year when he heard from his mother. She phoned after he called John McCain a schmuck during the Democratic National Convention (she called him James Anthony on the phone; Obama told Messina to let him make the headlines). And then a few months later as he boarded Marine One in front of dozens of flashing cameras, Mom called to report that she was watching him on CNN.

Messina told the partisan crowd that Democrats were more organized than ever in the wake of the Obama campaign and that they will use that focus to pass a bill that gives every American health care, promote alternative energy production and change the course of history.

He lauded Obama's stimulus bill, repeating that the western states would see key gains from the energy funding in the bill, and praised Minnick for voting his conscience, even though he voted against the stimulus.

"You need to re-elect Congressman Minnick," Messina said.

Minnick for his part, told the crowd he voted with the Democratic majority two-thirds of the time and did not apologize for the other third. He coached the 650 Idaho Democrats through one part of his speech—the part about defending the Second Amendment.

"I think that's an appropriate applause line," Minnick said to the hushed crowd. The ballroom at the DoubleTree Riverside conceded their claps.

Messina closed his speech quoting from Obama's memoir, which the president reminded his staffer that he wrote when he was Messina's age.

And then he echoed one of Obama's own favorite lines, praising a country in which," a skinny, poor boy from Boise can go to work in the Oval Office."