Michael Escoto, senior digital strategist of the National Republican Congressional Committee and a USC alumnus, advised students on how to get into politics on Monday at the Ronald Tutor Campus Center. The event “Running a Political Campaign” was hosted by the USC Political Student Assembly, an umbrella organization that facilitates discussion between different political groups on campus — among them the USC College Democrats, USC College Republicans and USC International Relations Undergraduate Association.
Upon starting the event, Escoto said that aside from being involved in political campaigns, he was also passionate about helping people break into politics.
“The way I got into politics was very atypical, and I wish somebody would have talked to me about it when I was in college,” Escoto said. “There is so much to learn here and events like these are great.”
Escoto then walked students through various milestones of his life in hopes of providing guidance. He discussed his first jobs after graduating from USC, which included working as a congressional district chair for the Rudy Giuliani Presidential Committee and then an Absentee Ballot and Early Vote Director for the Nevada Republican Party.
Escoto then discussed some of the challenges that came along with working for the Nevada Republican Party. Although there were many absentee ballot directors in many states, Escoto was the only one in the West Coast. Ultimately, this required him to conduct conference calls in the early hours of the morning to be able to speak with politicians on the East Coast.
Following his job in the Nevada Republican Party, Escoto worked for the Monaco Group, a printing and direct marketing firm. When he started working there, he and his colleagues realized that there was a wide gap between the digital presence of the Democratic and Republican Party, with the Democrats using digital media much more effectively than the Republicans. For this reason, he emphasized that a knowledge of politics wasn’t the only skill needed to work in the field and encouraged students from other disciplines to get involved in political campaigns.
“Most political science majors don’t get into politics,” Escoto said. “If you want to work on a campaign, perhaps political science is not the best major. Knowing about communication can be extremely helpful.”
Escoto discussed his experience working for Meg Whitman during her campaign for governor of California in 2010, as well as digital strategic consulting firm Targeted Victory between 2011 and 2015, before going into his current job at the National Republican Congressional Committee.
Escoto encouraged students to be flexible for jobs in the political arena. For example, learning computer programs such as Microsoft Excel, even if it’s not immediately relevant to politics, is a must — as is being ready to learn even more on the job, he said.
“When I hire people, I know most people don’t have experience,” Escoto said. “However, if they are teachable, that’s all we need.”
Students demonstrated an interest in the event in order to learn more about campaigns and breaking into the industry. Clinton Keaveny, a freshman global health major and staff writer for the Daily Trojan, said that he attended the event in order to prepare for a future career in politics.
“I would love to run for office one day eventually, and these events are a great opportunity to build connections,” Keaveny said.
Tristan Jordan, an executive board member of PSA, said that he hoped this event would encourage USC students to become more involved in politics.
“If we continue bringing more people like Michael Escoto, perhaps people would become politically engaged,” Jordan said.