Fall 2023 Bohnett Fellow
Mike Schmuhl is Chairman of the Indiana Democratic Party and a member of the Democratic National Committee’s Executive Committee. An organizer, manager, and leader, he has been actively involved in politics for fifteen years.
During the 2020 Democratic primary, Mike was the national campaign manager of Pete for America, Pete Buttigieg’s groundbreaking presidential campaign. The first employee of the campaign, he built and led a 600-person organization that led to Buttigieg becoming the first LGBTQ presidential candidate to be awarded delegates in American history after the Iowa Caucuses.
A native of South Bend, Mike has worked on campaigns for former U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly (2010), State Senator Shelli Yoder (2016), and businessman Mel Hall (2018). He served as Buttigieg’s first chief of staff in South Bend after running his campaign for mayor in 2011. Schmuhl was the elected 2nd Congressional District Democratic chairman from 2011 to 2013, becoming the youngest member of the state central committee at the time with full voting rights. In 2022, he was appointed to the Executive Committee of the Democratic National Committee.
Previously, Mike was Vice President at the Democratic consulting firm 270 Strategies in Chicago, where he advised nonprofits, issue-based causes, and labor unions. Before working in politics, he worked in the newsroom of The Washington Post as a producer and booker for broadcast outlets. He also interned for the late Tim Russert at NBC News’ Meet the Press.
In 2021, Mike helped found LangleyCyber, a full-service cybersecurity firm that blends expertise from American political organizations with former operatives from the intelligence community.
Mike received a BA in History from the University of Notre Dame and an MA in International Affairs from Sciences Po in Paris, France, where he received the alumni of the year award in 2021. He lives in his hometown and is refurbishing an old neighborhood bar where the Notre Dame football movie “Rudy” was filmed.
Study Group: American Political Parties and Campaigns in an Age of Innovation and Polarization
This study group studied American political campaigns and parties during a time of much promise and innovation mixed with deep skepticism, fear, and polarization. We examined the party structure at the national level and state level (in this case a midwestern Democratic state party in the process of rebuilding). We looked at how modern political campaigns take shape and take off. Relatedly, we learned and talked about the growing political technology space and how new companies and services are reaching voters directly in an era of fading local and regional journalism. Lastly, we looked at political messaging and messengers and discussed how important a clear message and narrative can be during a time of so much political strife.
Fall 2023 Semester Recap
Mike Schmuhl said this about his experience at USC’s Center for the Political Future: “With so much negativity in our politics today, it was refreshing to be a CPF Fellow and engage with young people who want to get involved in campaigns and work on projects to improve our country and the world. Our study group was conversational and interactive and I really enjoyed the students’ perspectives on how political campaigns operate during a time of such polarization and innovation — and how they can reach audiences more authentically.”
USC students in Mike’s study group shared this about their experience:
“Participating in Mike Schmuhl’s study group proved to be an enriching and honorable experience. I acquired invaluable insights into various aspects of political campaigning, communication strategies, and grassroots mobilization. Under Mike’s expert guidance, I refined my skills in strategic planning, which I found immensely rewarding. What I cherished most were the lively discussions and collaborative atmosphere that permeated our breakout groups and simulation activities. These interactive sessions not only kept us thoroughly engaged but also facilitated meaningful learning experiences. Engaging with my fellow participants, I deeply appreciated the camaraderie and the shared enthusiasm for instigating political change. Mike’s mentorship went beyond just imparting knowledge about campaign dynamics; it created a sense of community among us. This collective spirit, nurtured by his guidance, further solidified my passion for political activism. Armed with practical knowledge gained from the study group, I feel empowered to make meaningful contributions to future campaigns.”
Ari Moel, Legal Studies
“Whether problem-solving campaign logistics or discussing how evolving political technology alters how candidates connect with voters, Mike Schmuhl’s study group was an open and dynamic environment that enhanced my critical thinking skills. Mike’s experience as the national campaign manager of Pete Buttigieg’s 2020 presidential campaign and the insight of guest lecturers provided me with practical knowledge and compelling perspectives on navigating political parties, technology, and messaging in an age of polarization. This study group energized me to act, and I am looking forward to putting our discussions of political campaign operations into practice at my internship with Congressman Mike Levin in CA-49.”
Caroline Kelly, Political Science and Psychology
“Mike Schmuhl’s study group taught me a lot about political organizing in this modern day and age. We were able to do interactive activities that taught us a lot about what it means to run a campaign. Additionally, we had the opportunity to speak to amazing guest speakers that really enriched the overall program. This experience has been invaluable; I feel like I have so much more insight than I did before about what it means to run a successful campaign.”
“I gained a lot of knowledge about how campaigns work and an inside scoop about what it’s like working in the political sector. I loved getting to have one on one conversations with Mike and I also liked the small group experience where I felt that every voice could be heard. Mike conducted political discourse in a very neutral and engaging way. Everything about this group was amazing!”
Mike Schmuhl shared his thoughts on the importance of politics, his first political experience, his advice for having respectful political discourse, and what he appreciates about CPF in his “Quick Takes: Q&A with CPF Fellow Mike Schmuhl” video.