WASHINGTON—“She’s always been the other side of Barack’s brain.” That’s how an Obama insider described Valerie Jarrett as an Obama campaign aide announced Thursday night the former CTA chief and current Habitat Co. CEO is taking on a larger role to help her close friend win his White House bid.
The development comes as Jarrett, a charter member of Sen. Barack Obama’s kitchen cabinet, has been formalizing her portfolio and stepping up the pace within the past few weeks as a top advisor within the campaign.
Jarrett brings a package of assets to the campaign, a sprawling managerial, political and financial enterprise. While Obama has demonstrated formidable fund-raising ability, he has not caught up with chief rival Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) in the polls that count the most--in the four crucial states with the first presidential votes.
Jarrett has a close, long relationship with both Barack and Michelle Obama. Like the Obamas, Jarrett is a South Sider with deep ties to the University of Chicago.
Jarrett met Barack as she was hiring Michelle to work with her in Mayor Daley’s City Hall, where she served in a variety of top positions. Jarrett was finance chair of Obama’s 2004 Senate bid and once he was elected, was the treasurer of HOPEFUND, Obama’s political action committee. Jarrett’s resume and connections could make her a contender to succeed Daley.
Though she will be part-time, Jarrett will be one of the most visible and powerful African-Americans in the top rungs of the Obama operation. The very top campaign jobs are filled by whites.
Obama, unlike some political figures who enter presidential politics, did not bring with him to his campaign a large group of staffers who were veterans of his previous campaigns. In a campaign filled with staffers who are Washington insiders, Jarrett brings a different perspective—an outsider who can drive blindfolded through Chicago’s political minefields.