One Key to Buttigieg's Success: This Young Adviser

'New York' profiles Lis Smith
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 6, 2020 7:35 PM CST
One Key to Buttigieg's Success: This Young Adviser
Pete Buttigieg speaks at a campaign forum in Concord, N.H.   (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

(Newser) – Compared to most of the others in the race, Pete Buttigieg is just a kid at 38. But one key to his surprisingly successful campaign to date is that he has an even younger adviser—37-year-old Lis Smith. In a profile at New York, Clare Malone profiles Smith and the strategy she has employed to turn Buttigieg from a relatively unknown mayor into a well-known 2020 candidate. For starters, she's been employing a "total saturation approach" with Buttigieg, giving reporters unusual access to the candidate, a strategy she experimented with in her work on previous campaigns. "But Smith’s real power is that reporters actually like her," writes Malone. "It helps that she’s fun,"—and here Malone quotes a journalist who says Smith will "have a beer or a vodka or several,"—but "it’s also that she knows how to spot and place a story that will pop."

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Part of Smith's media savvy may be the result of being a minor celebrity in her own right, most famously as the once-girlfriend of former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer after his prostitution scandal and divorce. She became fodder for New York City tabloids, and thus "she's the rare staffer who can accurately claim to understand what her famous boss is going through while suffering in the media glare," writes Malone. Whether Buttigieg will continue to rise as the race grows more difficult is anyone's guess, but "Smith has already made her mark—everyone knows his name." The story suggests the nation is destined to know Smith's name, too. "She’s just somebody who I’ve thought for years, like, 'Huh, there’s going to come a story where Lis Smith is the protagonist, not the flack,'" says Ben Smith, editor of BuzzFeed who is leaving for the New York Times. Read the full profile. (Read more Pete Buttigieg 2020 stories.)

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