Political consultants from central casting: intense Bostonian, blond Alaskan; ex-bosses-Bono, Tina Brown, Bill Clinton
One recent morning, Jen Bluestein and Kirsten Powers, the new Democratic tag-team wrestlers in New York politics, were discussing one of Ms. Powers’ recent appearances on Fox News, in which she was labeled a “Democratic strategist” and sparred with conservatives over Hillary Rodham Clinton.
“I was so caffeinated, I was swinging my feet,” said Ms. Powers.
“The only thing worse they could have done was call you ‘Democratic madwoman,'” said Ms. Bluestein, furrowing her brow for effect.
“I think I’m really good on CNN. I think I really suck on Fox,” Ms. Powers said.
Ms. Powers and Ms. Bluestein will have plenty of chances to keep working on her Fox mojo: The two women have recently set up shop in a Soho office as Powers/Bluestein, a movie script waiting to happen: They’ll think for you, they’ll get your message out there, they’ll even run your campaign.
“I want us to be seen as really inventive people who don’t follow the old, staid rules of the political game,” said Ms. Bluestein.
Besides their connections, their instincts and their sheer animal energy, Ms. Bluestein and Ms. Powers “always seem to be in the middle of a good cause or a good fight,” said Democratic political consultant Howard Wolfson. Most recently, the New York State Democratic Party hired them to sink Mayor Bloomberg’s Proposition 3, the measure to eliminate partisan primaries in New York City. Bang-bang, bye-bye.
Before hooking up with Ms. Powers, the 31-year-old Ms. Bluestein had developed a reputation as someone who pops up in the middle of all the hot campaigns-from Cory Booker’s dramatic failed run to unseat Sharpe James as mayor of Newark to Bono’s drive for debt relief and AIDS funding for Africa. The 35-year-old Ms. Powers was a Clinton administration veteran staking out a presence on television, now that cable news appears to have decided that it’s O.K. to match Ann Coulter and Laura Ingraham with smart blond liberals.
They incorporated as Powers/Bluestein not long after meeting for the first time at the birthday party of Miramax P.R. man Matthew Hiltzik. They already knew each other by reputation: They’d been interviewing for the same jobs after working on two high-profile, failed campaigns: Ms. Powers on Andrew Cuomo’s in New York, and Ms. Bluestein on Robert Reich’s in Massachusetts.
The pair seems to have been sent straight from central casting for a feminist buddy movie. The daughter of prominent Boston Democrats, Ms. Bluestein is small, Jewish, intense and relentlessly cheerful. Ms. Powers is a tall blonde from … Alaska; she grew up in Fairbanks, the daughter of archaeologists. Ms. Bluestein wears geek-chic horn rims; Ms. Powers, Ray-Ban sunglasses that hold back her hair.
Ms. Bluestein is plugged into the city’s cultural scene. Among her pro bono commitments, she helped turn the Housing Works Used Books Café in Soho into a downtown literary hot spot. Ms. Bluestein is a veteran of the Tina Brown machine: When Ms. Bluestein did P.R. for The New Yorker , Ms. Brown arranged to have a fax set up next to Ms. Bluestein’s bed for late-night notes. She’s also worked for the old Board of Education, Harper’s Magazine and P.R. powerhouse Howard Rubenstein (for whom she specialized in nonprofit and media clients), and ran the campaign of Betsy Gotbaum for Public Advocate.
Ms. Powers was an executive at AOL after her stint as a deputy assistant to the U.S. Trade Representative for Public Affairs under President Clinton. She is emerging as one of the Democratic Party’s national voices. “It is smart political strategy as well as Democrats’ patriotic duty to challenge the president repeatedly for lying to get us into a war he has no plan to get us out of,” she wrote recently in USA Today .
With the 2005 Mayoral race approaching, Ms. Powers and Ms. Bluestein are among those now arguing that local Democrats should mount a clearer, more consistent challenge to the Republican Mayor and Republican Governor. “New York politics is very serious business, and people have to see it that way,” Ms. Powers said.
“People say, ‘Oh, you’re Democrats in New York … everybody’s a Democrat in New York,'” Ms. Bluestein said. “But we keep electing Republicans to executive offices. There really is a need to fight for a definition of Democratic ideals.”
Aren’t local politics a step down from rock stars like Clinton and Bono? Well, the two women say they’re in discussions with a local operation for an unnamed Presidential campaign as well.
But not front-runner Howard Dean-because, they say, they like to win.