David Axelrod To Leave White House In 2011 To Start Working On Re-Elect

There will be another departure from the Obama Administration early next year, but David Axelrod won’t be leaving so much as returning to the job he held before Inauguration Day:

David Axelrod, a top advisor to President Obama and the main architect of his election victory in 2008, will be leaving the White House next year and returning to Chicago to work on the president’s reelection campaign, a White House aide said Thursday.

Axelrod has not specified a departure date, but he plans to remain in his current position “well into 2011,” the aide said.

Axelrod, who calls himself a “Chicagoan on assignment,” has long made clear he missed his hometown and would return before the end of the four-year term. His wife still lives in the city.

One of Obama’s most trusted aides, Axelrod occupies a small office just steps from the Oval Office. On a wall in Axelrod’s office hangs a picture of the White House drawn by his daughter. The Chicago skyline is shown in the reflecting pool.

His portfolio is a broad one. He shapes the president’s message, oversees the speechwriting team, plots political strategy and advises on policy. A longtime campaign strategist, he is aware of his limitations when it comes to complex policy matters. He once made a self-deprecating reference to himself as “a duffer” when it comes to policy.

Other White House aides said part of Axelrod’s role was reminding the staff of the president’s campaign commitments and making sure that the White House agenda stayed true to Obama’s promises.

White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, a pragmatist when it comes to policy matters, once described the difference between himself and Axelrod as “prose” versus “poetry.”

Obama’s political viability, though, is one of Axelrod’s preoccupations. Steven Rattner, the former “car czar” and author of a new book about the auto-industry bailout, described Axelrod as sitting in meetings discussing poll results showing the public’s disdain for bailouts.

Mustached, rumpled and paunchy, Axelrod is a popular figure in the White House. He plays basketball, and after a game, he occasionally shows up, sweaty and winded, at a local bar frequented by reporters. Axelrod is a former political reporter for the Chicago Tribune.

This is hardly surprising. After all, Axelrod was the political brain behind the President’s 2008 campaign, and at some point next year the President’s political advisers are going to shift their attention to the re-election campaign, even if there isn’t a primary challenge to worry about.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.