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Obama Leans on Team Daschle in Key States

One of the secret ingredients to Barack Obama's change-centric presidential campaign is his reliance on a stable of longtime political operatives with ties to former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (S.D.).

Tom Daschle
The former Senate Democratic leader is playing an influential (if indirect) role in the Obama campaign. (File photo: Bill O'leary - The Washington Post)

Witness two recent hires to run key general election states for Obama: Mindy Myers as New Hampshire state director and Mitch Stewart as the Virginia state director.

Myers, who had been serving as chief of staff to Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), has a long history with Daschle, having worked in his Senate office and serving as political director of DASHPAC -- Dedicated Americans for Senate and House Political Action Committee (ugh!).

Stewart, too, goes way back with Daschle and his political operation. He was a field organizer on Sen. Tim Johnson's (S.D.) 2002 reelection victory over then-Rep. John Thune (R) and served as field director for Daschle in the senator's own unsuccessful reelection bid in 2004 (a race lost to Thune). Stewart served as Obama's Iowa caucus director earlier this year.

Myers and Stewart are part of a huge contingent of former Daschle aides now in senior positions with Obama.

Among them:

* Steve Hildebrand: The reclusive Hildebrand is a senior adviser to the Obama campaign and directed the early state strategy that helped deliver the Illinois senator the Democratic presidential nomination. Hildebrand, a South Dakota native, managed the Johnson and Daschle races in 2002 and 2004, respectively.

* Julianna Smoot: The woman at the head of Obama's massive finance team cut her teeth raising money for Daschle -- heading up DASHPAC's fundraising efforts and serving as finance director for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in 2006.

* Dan Pfeiffer: Pfeiffer, a Georgetown graduate, oversaw communications for Johnson's 2002 reelection contest before serving as deputy campaign manager for Daschle in 2004. After doing a stint promoting Sen. Evan Bayh's (Ind.) presidential explorations, Pfeiffer now serves as Obama's communications director.

* Christina Reynolds: Reynolds oversaw the research wing of Johnson's 2002 campaign and then served as communications director during Daschle's 2004 race. In between her Daschle jobs, she has worked in senior roles in both of former Sen. John Edwards's (N.C.) presidential campaigns but has now rejoined her old counterparts by taking a job with Obama's communications shop.

Obama's reliance on old hands who know each other and have worked together in the past is a reflection of his understanding that even the most change-oriented candidate needs people with past political experience in the nitty gritty of campaign politics to guide his effort.

By Chris Cillizza  |  June 13, 2008; 12:10 PM ET
Categories:  Eye on 2008  
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