Skip To Content

5 Things To Know About Nikki Haley’s Jewish Right-Hand Man Jon Lerner

He holds a senior position in the Trump administration and has made a name for himself as one of the most successful political consultants, yet Jon Lerner, manages to steer clear from the spotlight. Currently serving as America’s deputy ambassador to the United Nations, under Nikki Haley, Lerner, 49, was recently described in a New York Magazine article as “the No. 1 person [Haley] listens to,” and with speculations that Haley’s political ambition could lead her all the way to the White House, Lerner is the man to follow.

Here are a few facts about Jon Lerner:

He May Pave Haley’s Road to the White House

The New York Magazine reported that Lerner “has a long-term plan for Haley, and he is there to make sure nothing derails it.” This long term plan began back in South Carolina when Lerner managed Haley’s 2010 successful gubernatorial race and maintained its momentum when she entered the Trump administration as top United Nations representative. Lerner was appointed deputy ambassador but stayed behind to run Haley’s Washington office. “It’s important in the thick political mud of the UN to have folks around you that can be quick and strong,” former senator Jim DeMint, who was one of Lerner’s early clients, told Bloomberg describing Lerner as having “a very good strategic mind.”

His Nickname in Haley’s Campaign was ‘Lemon’

Lerner arrived at Haley’s campaign after working with her predecessor Mark Sanford. It was an immediate click and Lerner, a meticulous pollster, won Haley’s trust early on. “Where I follow my gut, Jon relies on facts and the statistics he finds in his polling,” Haley wrote in her 2012 autobiography. “I used to call him a ‘lemon’ because he never got excited about anything.” But there is something he does get excited about – his client’s integrity. When Sanford admitted lying about his extramarital affair, Lerner, who was not only Sanford’s pollster but also a friend, felt, according to reports a sense of betrayal.

He Only Takes Clients Who Are Conservative Enough

Lerner makes no secret of his conservative views and these views guide him when choosing political campaigns to work on. He helped DeMint and other Tea Party candidates win their races in the Republican wave of 2010. Lerner, like Haley, was not an early Trump supporter, but he followed Haley when she accepted Trump’s offer to join his administration. The roots of Lerner’s political ideology can be found in the global scene. “My hostility to anti-American authoritarian governments that began with anti-Communism remains my primary motivation,” he told Bloomberg. “That manifests itself today in places that include North Korea, Iran, Syria, Cuba, Venezuela, and Russia.”

His Mentor Was Arthur Finkelstein

Lerner, according to a 2010 McClatchy profile is a protege of the late Arthur Finkelstein, a legendary Republican political consultant known for his no-holds barred style of campaigning. Finkelstein also advised Israel’s Likud party and was behind Benjamin Netanyahu’s controversial campaign claiming his rivals would divide Jerusalem. Lerner isn’t as blunt as his mentor, but he’s still known for hard hitting campaign ads, highlighting his rivals’ shortfalls.

He Doesn’t Campaign on Shabbat

An observant Jew, Lerner ends his work when the sun sets on Friday and does not get back to it before Shabbat is over. According to former clients, Lerner keeps this rule even at the tensest moments of a political campaign. He lives in Bethesda with his wife and three children.

Contact Nathan Guttman at [email protected] or on Twitter @nathanguttman


Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.