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NRCC’s Independent Expenditure Is Armed With Shields

As a self-described “political nerd,” Shields considers Margaret Thatcher and President Ronald Reagan to be his surrogate political parents. In school while his classmates were protesting NATO’s nuclear missiles based in the U.K., Shields wore a “Peace Through Strength” button on his uniform.

Shields returned to the U.S. for college and was scheduled to graduate in 1992, but little by little his part-time political work became full time, and he still hasn’t finished his degree at GMU. George W. Bush adviser Karl Rove has a similar line on his résumé.

In July 1996, Shields moved to Georgia to become communications director for Friends of Newt Gingrich, the then-Speaker’s campaign operation. Six months later, Shields returned to D.C. to become his national political spokesman and ended up working with Gingrich for five years.

After a very brief foray in the federal work force following the election of Bush, Shields returned to elections work. (“I figured out I’m a campaign person, a political person,” Shields said.)

He moved to Alabama and managed the gubernatorial campaign for Tim James, son of the former governor. James was thumped by Rep. Bob Riley in the June 2002 primary, finishing third with 9 percent.

Then Shields moved north to Pennsylvania to handle press for Rep. George Gekas (R), who was locked in a battle with Democratic Rep. Tim Holden after redistricting threw the two incumbents into the same newly drawn district.

Gekas lost by 2 points but recently called Shields “the best-versed operative that I had run into, that was D.C.-based.”

Eight years later, Holden is on the extended list of GOP targets that Shields might choose to invest in this fall.

Shields spent two years at the NRCC as research director before applying to be chief of staff for Reichert.

“We had all the same values: wanting to serve the country and having the heart of a servant,” Reichert said. “I offered him the job right there.”

Just three months into Reichert’s first term, GOP leadership in the House moved to intervene in the Terri Schiavo right-to-die controversy. “It was one of [my] first and most important decisions,” Reichert said.

According to the Congressman, Shields fostered a healthy debate among the staff and, ultimately, Reichert voted against intervening, putting him at odds with the majority of his party members, who sought to prevent removal of Schiavo’s feeding tube.

In early 2009, Shields was hired again by the NRCC to be director of special projects. At the time, Democrats were riding high and it looked like Republicans might be headed for a third straight difficult election cycle. Shields’ résumé made him an excellent candidate for the NRCC. Now, the environment has shifted but the Republicans’ confidence in Shields remains strong.

“He’s a House Republican guy. This is what he knows and this is what he’s done,” said NRCC Deputy Executive Director Johnny DeStefano, who is also political director for House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio).

“Mike has seen the operation on all sides. He has a good cross-section of experience to come back and lead this thing,” said Carl Forti, the former NRCC veteran who led the committee’s IE effort in 2006. “He knows the product is only as good as your research.”

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