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What next for David Axelrod?


(photo by Lynn Sweet)

SARASOTA, Fla. -- "I am a kibitzer with a broad portfolio," David Axelrod is saying. He's kidding, of course, as he underplays his pivotal role in Barack Obama's drive for the White House.

Axelrod has been a part of other White House bids -- Paul Simon in 1988, John Edwards in 2004, even having influence on a "West Wing" presidential contest when writer/producer Eli Attie turned to Axelrod for advice in shaping the Obama-esque Matt Santos character played by Jimmy Smits, elected as the nation's first minority commander in chief.

Axelrod is on his own journey, which has taken him from his native New York to the University of Chicago; becoming a Chicago Tribune political writer, founder of a powerhouse consulting firm, and now, at the zenith of his career, chief strategist for Obama's presidential campaign -- and wondering what comes next.

"I think to some degree, chief strategist kind of does not give him enough credit,'' said Robert Gibbs, a campaign senior adviser brought into the Obama orbit by Axelrod and David Plouffe to work on Obama's 2004 general-election U.S. Senate race. Plouffe, Axelrod's partner at AKP&D Message and Media with headquarters in Chicago's River North neighborhood, is the manager of Obama's presidential campaign.

Title aside, Axelrod "is involved in virtually almost every aspect of the campaign," said Gibbs, "integrating message with policy and speechwriting. And, obviously, he is as close to Barack as anybody on this race because they have such a long relationship."

Democratic activist Bettylu Saltzman, an Axelrod friend, spotted Obama early on as a comer -- her backing has been a crucial element in Obama's quick rise -- and urged Axelrod to get to know him. "Bettylu called me in '92," Axelrod said, and told him she "just met this extraordinary guy, and you need to meet him."

While Obama and Axelrod went on to become friends, he wasn't involved in Obama's ill-fated House race in 2000.

Axelrod's signing on with Obama for his 2004 race for a Senate seat from Illinois was critical in making Obama, then still a little-known state senator, an instantly credible candidate in the crowded Democratic primary field.

Since the beginning of Obama's White House run, Axelrod's principal role has been to make sure the message of the campaign reflects Obama's worldview, from TV spots to the spin room after debates.

"The greatest gift that I have had is to be able to assemble the team of my dream," he said. "It was a little bit like 'Ocean's 11.' I got to go around to the best of everybody and ask: 'Are you in, or are you out?'"

Axelrod and I are chatting at an Obama rally in Florida as every trend shows Obama positioned to become president-elect Tuesday. There is speculation about whether Axelrod will join the administration.

"I think there is sort of a roundness between having started my political career with Paul and maybe finishing it with Barack," said Axelrod, who left the Tribune to work on Paul Simon's Senate campaign.

"Finishing?" I asked.

"Of this phase of my career."

"Meaning what?"

"I don't know what the future holds," Axelrod says. "There is nothing I will ever do that will even approach the thrill that this has been."


Selling out your Country! I guess you consider that a big thrill. You are assisting a 3rd rate
chicago 'hack' who is the least qaulified person to ever seek the Office of President. He would not be here if he were not black & you know it,
Just because he can articulate, Use a noun & verb in the same sentence & is black, People think he is intelligent as they expect nothing more from the rank & file Black. You, Sir are a Traitor!!! Knowingly setting the charade of a decent man, Hell he is a racist as is his wife.
Shame on You!!!!!!!

I can assure you the comments of the first responder do NOT reflect the vast majority of Americans who evaluate people based on their actions, not the color of their skin.
With Senator Obama's election on Tuesday, David Axelrod will deserve a sincere salute. He has assisted a highly articulate, highly intelligent AMERICAN rise to the highest Executive position in the USA.
I look forward to the new administration & positive actions for ALL Americans.

So Mike you're calling Obama racist? From your post it sounds like the pot calling the kettle black. Just an observation from a "rank & file Black." Plus, since Obama is half white he must have a lot internal conflict considering his racist inclinations. Wonder who he will actually vote for when he gets behind the curtain (Bradley Effect right?). Oh, and speaking of traitors...are you sure you didn't Sara Palin? Sarah "my husband was a card carrying member of the Alaskan Independence Party - the one whose conference I attended" Palin?

Quite simply Mr. Axelrod has provided leadership to the most flawless politcal campaign in the history of american politics. He has done this with integrity and compassion, humility and laughter. The strategic vision that he has provided the campaign has tramsformed our democracy as we know it. He deserves whatever our next President asks him to do.


i would like to point something out to the first commentor. That the person who created the republican party, a one president lincoln, was no more qualified than President electo Obama. if i recall didnt lincoln only have one term in congress??? and people such as this forget he was a LIBERAL so when people sling that insult at democrats i laugh because the biggest liberal was a republican! the word i am looking for is pathetic.

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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 November 1, 2008 10:51 AM.

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