Reggie Love: Barack Obama’s Body Man

Reggie Love was a standout wide receiver and basketball player at Duke that the Dallas Cowboys, for some odd reason, unsuccessfully tried to turn into a pro linebacker. Love was occasionally flat on his back in his college days. He’s landed on his feet, working as the body man for the presumptive Democratic nominee for president.

Reggie Love Barack Obama’s Body Man

Ashley Parker has an interesting feature story on Love and his relationship with Barack Obama in today’s NYT.

Mr. Love now knows that when it comes to food, Senator Obama “eats pretty much anything, from chicken wings and barbecue and ribs to grilled fish and steamed broccoli.” But when he is campaigning in a small town with limited options, a cheeseburger is always a good bet. (“Cheddar is the cheese of choice,” Mr. Love added.) He knows that “the boss,” as he calls Mr. Obama, likes MET-Rx chocolate roasted-peanut protein bars and bottles of a hard-to-find organic brew — Black Forest Berry Honest Tea. He keeps a supply of both on hand.

Except for the cheeseburger, those are some very elitist eating habits.

And he has learned that all campaigns have their superstitions — Senator John McCain has a penchant for heads-up coins — and that Mr. Obama is no exception. That means that Mr. Love and Mr. Obama, for luck, play basketball every primary day.

Mr. Love, 26, is Mr. Obama’s body man, the personal aide who shadows the senator and anticipates everything he needs — and everything he does not need. He is not a bodyguard (security is provided by the Secret Service), but rather the ultimate assistant, rarely more than a body length away from the candidate.

One wonders how this will go over with white working class voters?

Young, eager campaign aides are stock characters in movies and on television, but few have quite the élan of Mr. Love, who, at 6-foot-5, is about three inches taller than the tall candidate, fitter than the fit candidate (he can bench press more than 350 pounds) and cooler than the cool candidate. “There’s no doubt that Reggie is cooler than I am,” Mr. Obama said, laughing, in a phone interview. “I am living vicariously through Reggie.”

But Hillary Clinton is cooler than Reggie. Much cooler. Which is why she should be the nominee.

What a body man does depends on the politician. Senator John Kerry’s aide for his presidential race in 2004 was dubbed “part butler, part buddy.” Bill Clinton’s aide when he was president said their relationship sometimes felt more like that of an old married couple. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton has a body woman, the efficient and glamorous Huma Abedin. On NBC’s “The West Wing,” President Josiah Bartlet treated his body man, Charlie Young, like a son.

Mr. Obama said he regarded “my guy, Reggie,” as the kid brother he never had. “But maybe I’m saying that just because he technically could be my son,” the Illinois senator said. “I don’t want to admit my age.”

Mr. Love said he had been hired with “no job description whatsoever.” “It was just like, ‘You just go out there and — Take. Care. Of. Stuff,’ ” Mr. Love said, taking his time with each word. Some of the “stuff” Mr. Love takes care of: When Mr. Obama makes calls to woo superdelegates, Mr. Love is at his side with a briefing book, dialing the numbers. When an outdoor speech ended on a windy day in Noblesville, Ind., he appeared behind Mr. Obama as he shook hands on the rope line. “Jacket?” he asked, a coat draped at the ready over his arm.

When Mr. Obama dropped food on his tie while eating in the car between stops, Mr. Love was ready with a Tide pen. He always carries one, along with ballpoint pens, and has turned himself into a walking dispensary of Sharpies, stationery, protein bars, throat lozenges, water, tea, Advil, Tylenol, Purell and emergency Nicorette, not to mention his ever-present iPhone, BlackBerry and Canon Rebel XT digital camera. (Mr. Love keeps a photo journal of the campaign, and has more than 10,000 pictures so far.)

Compared with the even-tempered and self-controlled Mr. Obama, Mr. Love is raffish, always joking with the Secret Service, offering closed-fist high-fives to members of the news media and making frequent appearances in the daily pool reports. At a V.F.W. hall in Indiana, he helped out when the senator did not want a second Budweiser, taking it off Mr. Obama’s hands.

Somehow, that’s not surprising.

When Mr. Obama hits a rough patch in the campaign, Mr. Love is sympathetic. In college, embarrassing pictures of an inebriated Mr. Love from a fraternity house party surfaced on the Internet. “You make mistakes and you learn from them, and you try to use them to make you a better person,” he said. After graduating with a degree in political science and public policy, Mr. Love had summer try-outs with the Green Bay Packers in 2004 and the Dallas Cowboys in 2005 before being cut.

Which is how, in 2006, after applying for an internship on Capitol Hill, Mr. Love ended up interviewing with Robert Gibbs, Mr. Obama’s communications director, for a position in Mr. Obama’s Senate office. “It’s the only time I’ve ever interviewed somebody whose work experience included the Green Bay Packers and the Dallas Cowboys,” Mr. Gibbs said.

Indeed. It sounds like a good fit. In some ways, it’s strange to go from star athlete at a prestigious university to 26-year-old gopher. But the job’s really about a lot more than that. It’s a stressful, high pressure gig and the spotlight of college athletics is as good a preparation as any.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. had no idea that former Duke basketball/football player Reggie Love was Obama’s personal “body man” http://tinyurl.com/6my7uc

  2. Ugh says:

    Except for the cheeseburger, those are some very elitist eating habits.

    Chicken wings, BBQ, and ribs are now “elitist eating habits”? Sweet.

  3. James Joyner says:

    Chicken wings, BBQ, and ribs are now “elitist eating habits”? Sweet.

    I was thinking of the MET-Rx and Honest Tea but was being tongue-in-cheek in any case. What do I care what the man eats? It sounds like he’s got relatively healthy habits.

  4. Beldar says:

    Nicorette?

    Barry’s still prevaricating about whether he’s actually quit?

  5. Bill45 says:

    “Body man”?!?

    Call him what he is; valet, batman, manservant.