The Obama 15

1. David Axelrod, media strategist

A Chicago political consultant, Axelrod first met Obama in 1992 when the candidate was running a voting registration drive there. Originally a Chicago Tribune political reporter, the 'Axe' switched to electoral politics in 1984, when he signed up for then-Rep. Paul Simon's successful Senate campaign. He then worked on Chicago mayor Harold Washington's 1987 reelection campaign, Hillary Clinton's 2000 Senate race, and as the media guru for John Edwards' 2004 presidential run. After the Edwards campaign faltered, Axelrod focused his attention on Obama's Senate primary campaign and helped engineer his come-from-behind defeat of millionaire businessman Blair Hull. He masterminded Deval Patrick's successful 2006 run for governor in Massachusetts, and then rejoined Obama on his presidential bid.

In February 2007, Christopher Hayes traced Axelrod's path from Tribune reporter to Obama's right hand man in The Nation.

2. David Plouffe, campaign manager

Plouffe's career began with Senator Tom Harkin, specifically his 1990 Senate reelection campaign and 1992 presidential run. After spending the mid-1990s working on various congressional races, Plouffe joined then-House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt's staff in 1997. After two years on the Hill, he was tapped to run the DCCC for the 2000 cycle. He rejoined Gephardt for his presidential bid in 2004 as a senior political adviser. When that campaign folded after the Iowa caucuses, Plouffe joined his friend Axelrod on Obama's Senate bid, and in early 2007 he was tapped to manage Obama's presidential campaign.

In May 2008, Noam Scheiber of The New Republic detailed the key organizational role Plouffe has played in the Obama campaign, particularly his focus on delegate-counting.

3. Pete Rouse, Senate chief of staff.

A longtime Hill staffer, Rouse served as chief of staff to former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle until 2004, when Daschle lost his reelection bid. Out of a job, Obama convinced him to move from working for the most powerful Democrat in the Senate to working for one of most junior. He has run Obama's Senate office since early 2005. Rouse has been key in formulating Obama's Senate strategy, urging him to fly below the radar and work on passing bipartisan legislation, like transparency reform with Tom Coburn, or nuclear nonproliferation with Dick Lugar.

In August 2007, the Washington Post's Perry Bacon detailed how Pete Rouse has engineered Obama's fast rise through Washington.

4. Cassandra Butts, domestic policy adviserĀ 

Butts, currently the senior vice president for domestic policy at the Center for American Progress, was, like Plouffe, a longtime Dick Gephardt aide. After seven years with him in the House, she signed onto his 2004 presidential bid as policy director. She was a close friend and classmate of Obama's during his time at Harvard Law School, and took a leave of absence from CAP to help Obama establish his Senate office. She's worked with the campaign both on domestic policy issues and on outreach to fellow Harvard Law alumni.

In March 2007, Anna Schneider-Mayerson of The New York Observer examined the role Butts, and other Harvard Law classmates of Obama, are playing in his campaign.

5. Anthony Lake, foreign policy adviser

A former foreign service officer and international relations professor, Lake rose to prominence as Bill Clinton's foreign policy guru during the 1992 campaign, a role that led to his appointment as Clinton's first national security adviser , which he held from 1993 to 1997. Clinton then nominated him to be CIA director, but withdrew the nomination after it became clear the Republican Senate would not confirm him. He has served as an adviser to Obama's campaign since the beginning of the primaries.

In April 2008, Time's Massimo Calabresi detailed Lake's rivalry with his former friend and key Hillary Clinton adviser Richard Holbrooke.

6. Robert Gibbs, senior strategist for communications and message

A veteran campaign consultant who cut his teeth on Senate races, Gibbs was the press secretary for the Kerry campaign in 2003 until November, when he resigned and took the helm of Americans for Jobs, Health Care, and Progressive Values, an anti-Howard Dean 527 group. He joined Obama's Senate campaign after he won the Democratic nomination, and spent the presidential primary season and the first month of the general election as Obama's communications director. In mid-July, he handed off the communications operation to Dan Pfeiffer and assumed his current role as a strategist.

In February 2007, the Washington Post's Mary Ann Akers reported on the antipathy toward Gibbs among liberal bloggers, particularly those who supported the Dean campaign.

7. Valerie Jarrett, senior adviser

A Chicago native and close friend of both Barack and Michelle Obama, Jarrett is the CEO of the real estate development firm The Habitat Company. She first worked in politics as an aide to Chicago mayor Harold Washington, a position she currently holds under Chicago's current mayor, Richard Daley. She met the Obamas when she recruited Michelle to work for the city's planning and development department in 1991, and ran Obama's finance committee during his 2004 Senate campaign. She serves as an adviser without portfolio in the presidential campaign.

In August 2008, The New Republic's Michelle Cottle profiled the woman she calls "Obama's fixer."

8. Bill Burton, national press secretary

Burton, like Plouffe, worked on Tom Harkin's staff (as press secretary) before moving to presidential politics. He was Dick Gephardt's press secretary for the Iowa caucuses before joining John Kerry's communications team for the general election. He joined the Obama team after directing communications for the DCCC during the 2006 cycle.

In July 2007, the New York Times' David Halbfinger described how Burton and his wife, Ted Kennedy's communications director Laura Capps, managed to get married in the midst of a primary cycle.

9. Tom Daschle, adviser

Daschle, the 18-year Senate veteran and longtime Democratic leader, lost his reelection battle in 2004, the same year Obama entered the Senate. In short order, many of Daschle's staffers, most notably, Peter Rouse, joined Obama's team. More came on board during the presidential run, including Denis McDonough and Steve Hildebrand. Daschle endorsed Obama as soon as he announced his bid in February 2007, and has remained a key adviser and surrogate since.

In April 2007, MSNBC's Howard Fineman examined the role of Daschle in the Obama operation.

10. Penny Pritzker, national finance chair

Pritzker is a billionaire heiress to the Hyatt Hotel fortune, as well as a successful businesswoman in her own right. An institution in Chicago political and financial circles, she has been friends with the Obamas since the late 1990s, and helped raise tens of thousands of dollars for Obama's 2004 Senate bid. As finance chair, she's been critical in developing Obama's small-donor fundraising strategy, which has led to is unprecedented financial success.

In March 2008, Robert Frank and Mark Maremont of the Wall Street Journal detailed Pritzker's role in the Obama campaign.

11. Jon Favreau, director of speechwriting

Favreau and Obama met serendipitously in during the 2004 Democratic convention, when Favreau, then a just-out-of-college John Kerry staffer, told Obama about a revision the Kerry campaign wanted made in his keynote speech. Once Kerry lost, Obama hired Favreau for his Senate staff, where he befriended the senator and began to write speeches for him. Favreau directs two other speechwriters, Adam Frankel and foreign policy specialist Ben Rhodes, and was personally responsible for Obama's famed victory speech in Iowa.

In January 2008, the New York Times' Ashley Parker described the path Favreau took to become a key adviser to the candidate at only 26.

12. Dan Pfeiffer, communications director

A veteran of two South Dakota senate reelection battles -- Tim Johnson's successful one in 2002 and Tom Daschle's failed one in 2004 -- Pfeiffer spent 2005 to 2006 working for Evan Bayh's Senate office and PAC. Initially expected to work on Bayh's presidential run, Pfeiffer became a traveling press secretary for Obama when Bayh opted out of the contest. Over the course of the campaign, Pfeiffer was promoted twice, first to deputy communications director and then to communications director in July 2008.

In March 2008, Politico's John Harris recounted Pfeiffer's aggressive media relations technique.

13. Steve Hildebrand, deputy campaign manager

A longtime Midwest political consultant, Hildebrand was campaign manager for Tim Johnson and Tom Daschle's Senate reelection campaigns in 2002 and 2004, respectively, and directs his own political consulting firm, Hildebrand Tewes Consulting, in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. After offering his services to Hillary Clinton's nascent run in 2006 and being rebuffed, Hildebrand directed Obama in tours of Iowa and New Hampshire before signing on as deputy campaign manager. Hildebrand was responsible for planning the field strategy that would eventually win Obama the nomination.

In July 2008, the New York Observer's Jason Horowitz related Hildebrand's experience at Netroots Nation.

14. Denis McDonough, national security coordinator

McDonough began his career as a staffer at House International Relations Committee, and moved on to work for Tom Daschle from 2000 until his defeat in 2004. McDonough joined the Obama campaign after stints aiding Daschle at the Center for American Progress and serving as freshman Senator Ken Salazar's legislative director. He is responsible for coordinating Obama's large team of foreign policy adviser s and surrogates.

In July 2008, the New York Times' Elisabeth Bumiller profiled Obama's foreign policy team and McDonough's role in organizing it.

15. Austan Goolsbee, economic policy adviser

Goolsbee is an economist at the University of Chicago business school, focusing on public policy issues, especially taxation. A former columnist for Slate and the New York Times, he met Obama when the senator taught at Chicago's law school, and he's advised Obama on economic issues since his 2004 Senate race. While Goolsbee took a hit in March when he was caught telling a Canadian consulate official that Obama was not serious about renegotiating NAFTA, he still plays a key role in formulating the campaign's approach to economic policy. Fun fact: when Goolsbee was an undergraduate at Yale in 1990, he and his debate partner Dahlia Lithwick were runners up for the title of National Debate Team of the Year. Lithwick is now the legal columnist for Slate.

In March 2008, The New Republic's Noam Scheiber described Obama's policy operation, including Goolsbee's role.

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