Casey Phillips was listed at 6 feet 4 inches tall, 264 pounds, on the University of Wyoming football roster a dozen years ago, so it wasn’t difficult to spot him last week as he strolled through the revolving door of a restaurant in Arlington, Va.
The former offensive lineman, who just turned 32, is the owner of RedPrint Strategy media firm and is among the vanguard of young Republican strategists looking to steer the GOP on a path of electoral success in the 21st century. In his first cycle as a media consultant, Phillips earned a coveted spot in the stable of consultants for the National Republican Congressional Committee’s independent expenditure arm and produced ads in top races in California and Nevada.
In 2011, rather than join an established firm after spending the previous two cycles as a regional political director at the Republican State Leadership Committee and as an NRCC field representative, Phillips veered onto the road less traveled and struck out on his own.
“I had some good offers at some very good firms to be a junior partner, but I sort of wanted to do it a little differently,” Phillips said. “That’s the decision I made — to really do it my own way.”
Phillips is conservative, but not particularly ideological. He’s competitive, yet easygoing. He’s relatively new to the ad-making game, but he dived headfirst into the 2012 cycle and is now aiming to expand his congressional clientele for the 2014 midterms.
Sporting a red flannel shirt, dark jeans and brown cowboy boots, Phillips spoke softly between sips of iced tea as he ran through his bio. His roots are unique, even in a town filled with folks from everywhere else.
Phillips grew up on a South Dakota cattle ranch that’s been in his family for more than 100 years. He attended a one-room schoolhouse, sometimes commuting on horseback, until his parents decided he needed to attend a high school in town to fully realize his athletic ability. They bought a small house 50 miles away in Sturgis, where he lived during the school week.
After two years as a walk-on at Wyoming, Phillips transferred back in-state to Augustana College in Sioux Falls on a scholarship, started at center and served as team captain. Phillips, then with locks falling below his shoulders, also played bass guitar in a rock band.
After attending a meeting one day with the College Republicans, Phillips volunteered on former Lt. Gov. Steve Kirby’s gubernatorial campaign, and later that year he scored a gig as a South Dakota Victory field representative, assisting then-Rep. John Thune’s first Senate campaign.
“That’s where the bug really bit me that made me want to get into politics,” Phillips said. “I met so many great people on that campaign and understood how a campaign worked and that it was a way for me to have my competitive outlet continue even after sports was over.”