Before entering politics, Joel Benenson tried journalism: he worked for the New York Daily News, but found he felt strongly about the issues he was covering. So he moved in communications for Gov. Mario Cuomo’s reelection campaign in 1994, and then President Bill Clinton’s in 1996. He pioneered new research methods that helped Barack Obama win the presidency twice. He also advises corporations and not-for-profits, including AARP, the National Football League and Toyota, on their communications strategy. This year, Benenson, 67, worked as a strategist for the new Israeli coalition, Blue and White, the leading contender to unseat Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — in not one but two campaigns.
Benenson did not respond to our questionnaire, but we’ve pulled some fun facts from published profiles.
What did he want to be when he grew up? An actor. Benenson majored in acting at Queens College and directed a one-man off-Broadway show about the Holocaust. To earn extra money, he helped run a beer distributorship in Crown Heights.
How many presidential campaigns has he worked on? Four. Clinton 1996, Obama 2008 and 2012 and Hillary Clinton’s in 2016.
She lost, right? Yes, and Benenson was stunned to learn that the Russians had stolen his company’s internal modeling. “I saw it and I said, ‘Holy shit,’” he told the New Yorker.
Joel Benenson: Netanyahu’s Nemesis