Chicago Sun-Times
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Sweet column: Obama's "drama-free" team. His inner circle.


WASHINGTON -- Backlash from two top Obama advisers -- Austan Goolsbee and Samantha Power -- has created enormous headaches for the Democratic presidential candidate. Goolsbee survived after visiting a Canadian consulate in Chicago, talking about NAFTA, triggering a cross-border incident. Power quit when it came out she called Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) a"monster" in an interview, forcing her to step down Friday.

The bungles by these high-profile advisers come in a campaign, headquartered in Chicago, that has been generally free from personal error and rancor -- in contrast to Clinton's operation. Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) said when he started he wanted to build a "drama-free" team, and that's what he's got.

The key players have worked together for years:

• David Axelrod is the top strategist for the Obama campaign. He was Obama's media consultant for his 2004 U.S. Senate race. A former Chicago Tribune political writer and columnist, he went on to create a powerhouse national media firm headquartered in Chicago. His extensive client list includes Mayor Daley, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick and scores of other contests and causes.

• Robert Bauer is counsel to the Obama campaign and chairman of the political law group at Perkins Coie LLP in Washington.

• Joel Benenson, the founding partner of the Benenson Strategy Group, is a pollster for the campaign who specializes in message development and testing. He has known and worked with Axelrod for years. Other pollsters are Cornell Belcher and Paul Harstad.

• Robert Gibbs is the communications chief for Obama who started with him when he was running for the Senate in the general election in 2004. Gibbs went on to be his Senate communications chief and an architect of the presidential campaign.

• Larry Grisolano coordinates all polling, focus groups, dial and all other research for the campaign. He is a principle in the Strategy Group, headquartered in Evanston. Another Strategy Group principle, Pete Giangreco, oversees direct mail for the campaign.

• Heather Higginbottom is the lead policy person in the Obama campaign. She was deputy national policy director for the Kerry-Edwards ticket in 2004.

• Steve Hildebrand is the deputy national campaign director, a mastermind of field operations. He managed the re-election bid of former Sen. Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) in 2004 and the next year directed Daschle's New Leadership for America PAC.

• Valerie Jarrett brings a different perspective to the campaign as a high-level unpaid adviser. A friend who often travels with him, Jarrett bridges Obama's political and personal lives and is close to his wife, Michelle. Jarrett is the president and CEO of the Habitat Co., based in Chicago. Two other friends sometimes are on the Obama plane: Eric Whitaker, executive vice president of the University of Chicago Medical Center, and best friend Marty Nesbitt, the treasurer of his campaign who is the CEO of the Parking Spot.

• Jim Margolis was brought in by Axelrod to help in media consulting chores, working jointly to produce ads.

• David Plouffe is the campaign manager, increasing his profile as he hosts conference calls and briefings. He is a partner in the firm Axelrod founded.

• Peter Rouse is Obama's Senate chief of staff who helped put together a master plan for Obama when he came to Washington that led to a White House run. He is a former chief of staff for Daschle who joined Obama after Daschle lost a re-election bid in 2004.

• Julianna Smoot is the national finance director who was instrumental in establishing Obama's presidential political viability by raking in millions for him early on. She worked for Daschle's DashPac and served as fund-raiser for his 2004 Senate race; before Obama, she was finance director of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.


The perception of the Obama team being "drama free" is more the result of the media driven perception that the Clinton team is in perpetual and terminal disarray. The facts of the matter are that each campaign has cut loose one high level surrogate for poorly thought out public comments, and beyond that everything seems pretty much on par between the two as well. I think all high level advisors with the exception of Shaheen (Clinton) and Power (Obama) remain with their respective teams although their official titles may have changed.

If you stop to recall, the Clinton team was written off as inept, confused, and internally cantankerous, as soon as the Iowa results came in over two months ago. A week later they were brilliant and focussed. Then falling apart at the seams again. Then capable of heroic comeback.

With the notable exception of the host of this site, the real "Drama Queens" aren't organizing and running the campaigns, they are writing and talking about them.

The difference Lynn is the Obama Campaign are willing to be accounted for sad mistakes or errors, unlike Clinton, why have the media not make a big challenge to her about Harold Wolfson and his Ken Starr smears against Barack Obama, is it because the campaign has no morals? with it's lies and personal attacks, Power at all costs for self interest. Hilary is Harold Wolfson will not resign him, sack him with immediate effect.

This post is very revealing and most interesting.

Is it possible that the strong anti-Democratic-establishment nature of the Obama campaign comes less from Obama (who never exhibited it before as a political trademark!) than from the many Tom-Daschle-ites who are, no doubt, still extremely bitter about Daschle's election defeat?

I just don't yet trust the Obamas.
The Hamas stuff now.
Didn't Obama PLAN TO GO WITH JIMMY CARTER to visit Hamas.
I don't have a problem with that---I do have a problem with LYING about it--concealing it.
I just think we haven't seen the real Obamas yet.

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on March 9, 2008 10:06 AM.

Sweet: Samantha Power resigns after calling Clinton "monster" was the previous entry in this blog.

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