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.
Nathan Guttman, staff writer, is the Forward’s Washington bureau chief. He joined the staff in 2006 after serving for five years as Washington correspondent for the Israeli dailies Haaretz and The Jerusalem Post. In Israel, he was the features editor for Ha’aretz and chief editor of Channel 1 TV evening news. He was born in Canada and grew up in Israel. He is a graduate of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.