Donald Trump has not held a press conference since winning the Nov. 8 election, so much of the public comments from the president-elect’s transition team has come from a spokesman who might be familiar to a lot of South Carolinians.
Former Gov. Mark Sanford’s campaign manager Jason Miller is Trump’s transition communications director and main conduit to the outside world, holding regular briefings for the press.
Miller’s position working with the incoming president is no surprise to his old boss Sanford, after he managed the former governor’s 2006 re-election campaign and the 2013 special election that returned Sanford to the U.S. House from South Carolina’s 1st District.
“It’s a real complement to Jason and his professionalism, expertise and skill set,” Sanford said. “What you want for any of your teammates is to see his talents used, and he has been put in the middle of the political solar system.”
Miller has worked in other states as well. Now his latest role could prepare Miller for a job in the White House.
he’s been put in the middle of the political solar system.
U.S Rep. Mark Sanford, R-Charleston
‘Incredible work ethic’
“He has an incredible work ethic,” said Joel Sawyer, Sanford’s former communications director. “You couldn’t go four or five hours without getting emails from him. He was always looking for an opportunity to aggressively push a message.”
Wesley Donehue, who runs digital campaigns as the CEO of Push Digital, a marketing company that is heavily involved in S.C. politics has worked with Miller several times over the past decade. The two began working together in 2006 when Donehue met Miller for beers at the Salty Nut after Miller joined the Sanford campaign.
“He understands communications and campaign strategy better than anybody,” Donehue said. “So it’s no surprise Trump would bring him in.”
Miller declined to comment for this story, citing his focus on the president-elect’s transition to the White House.
After Miller led Sanford to a 55 percent win in his 2006 re-election, he took a job in Sanford’s administration handling strategic planning. He soon left to work for the 2008 presidential campaign of former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani.
“It’s more exciting to work on a campaign than on governing,” said Scott English, Sanford’s former gubernatorial chief of staff. “He’s disciplined in the middle of a firefight. He’s good at thinking about, ‘What are we talking about? What are we trying to accomplish?’ and then going back on message again.”
He’s fearless. He’s willing to gamble.
Scott English, former Sanford chief of staff
‘Willing to gamble’
Miller came back to South Carolina in 2013 to work on Sanford’s run for his old Charleston-area congressional seat, the former governor’s political comeback after a very public extramarital affair marred the end of his term as governor.
“That was the toughest race of my life,” Sanford said. “And then, it was not about the merit badges you had. It comes down to who you know, who you like, who you trust.”
English credits Miller with pushing Sanford through a crowded GOP primary and on to a victory over a well-financed opponent.
“A lot of people come into a safe environment, where they already know the outcome,” English said. “He takes on challenges.”
Miller worked as a consultant for a similar campaign, Republican Matt Bevin’s upset win in the 2015 Kentucky governor’s race.
“He worked for Bevin, for crying out loud, who was third in the polls in a Republican primary,” English said. “He’s fearless. He’s willing to gamble.”
he can name his price and pick the job he wants.
Joel Sawyer, former Sanford communications director
Headed for the White House?
Miller was a communications adviser to U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas before joining the Trump team after the GOP primaries. It’s a job he could parlay into a position in the White House, something that could present different challenges than life on the campaign trial.
“After being on the trail, you kind of need a break,” Donehue said. “It can be a crazy, hectic lifestyle.”
Sawyer said working as Trump’s transition team spokesman will open doors for Miller.
“Working in the White House is a once in a lifetime opportunity,” Sawyer said. “I’m sure after this, he can name his price and pick the job he wants.”
Title: Communications director, Donald Trump’s presidential transition, executive vice president of Jamestown Associates
Previous campaigns: Senior communications adviser, Ted Cruz 2016 presidential campaign; Mark Sanford 2013 congressional campaign; deputy communications director, Rudy Giuliani 2008 presidential campaign; campaign manager, Mark Sanford 2006 governor’s campaign; George Allen (Virginia) 2006 Senate campaign; Tom Coburn (Oklahoma) 2004 Senate campaign.
Hometown: Seattle, Wash.
Education: Bachelor’s degree in political science, George Washington University