Who will be the Karl Rove of the 2008 campaign?
The most obvious heir to Rove-like influence is Hillary Clinton's top political adviser, Mark Penn, who was one of President Clinton's political advisers, but has a more powerful role this time around in Sen. Clinton's campaign. Like Rove, he advises on both politics and policy. And like Rove, Penn has generated some controversy: the public relations firm he runs has advised clients on how to respond to pressure from employees who want to form unions, an approach that has angered some of the labor unions whose backing Clinton is courting.
David Axelrod, the Chicago-based strategist who piloted Barack Obama's 2004 Senate victory, is involved in both political strategy and policy, like Penn is, and speaks to Obama every day. His influence could be even stronger than Rove or Penn's in one way; Axelrod came to advise Obama when he was a little-known state senator; Penn's closeness to Clinton was forged when she was First Lady.
With an Obama victory, Axelrod would be two-thirds of the way toward Rove's record; the Bush adviser played a major role in the 2000, 2002 and 2004 election wins. Axelrod was a top strategist for Rep. Rahm Emanuel in 2006 as Emanuel successfully ran the Democrats campaign to the House last fall.
For now, other leading candidates don't seem to have a Rove-like figure. Former North Carolina Senator John Edwards has frequently complained of the influence of consultants, and as the Post's Dan Balz wrote recently, his wife is in many ways his top adviser. In the 2004 campaign, Elizabeth Edwards complained of the ads designed by one of her husband's advisers: Axelrod.
Fred Thompson's wife has generated complaints from playing such a big role in her husband's campaign. John McCain's closest Rove proxy was John Weaver, but the pair split amid his campaign woes earlier this year.
Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney has built a team of advisers that is primarily distinct from his gubernatorial staff, although Beth Myers, his campaign manager, worked as his chief of staff in Massachusetts. (She also worked for Rove in 1980's.)
Rudy Giuliani has a band of people who were close to him during his New York campaigns and in the mayor's office. He's added some new Washington hands, including Mike DuHaime, his campaign manager, who used to be the political director of the Republican National Committee.
--Perry Bacon Jr.
Washington Post editors
August 14, 2007; 12:01 PM ET
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