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Barack Obama's Impressive Team

In announcing his presidential exploratory committee today, Sen. Barack Obama said he will not make a final decision on whether or not to run for president until February 10. Whether or not he's officially in the race for the 2008 Democratic nomination, the Illinois senator already has recruited an impressive group to run his national effort.

Sen. Barack Obama
Barack Obama poses for a photograph at the St. Mark Cathedral in Harvey, Ill., after paying tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (AP)

Obama's campaign will be headquartered in Chicago, and most -- if not all -- of the key players charged with managing his race have already moved or are in the process of moving to the Windy City.

Here's the early look at Obama's inner circle:

David Plouffe: A partner in AKP Media (the consulting firm that handled Obama's media in the 2004 Senate race), Plouffe is widely expected to serve as national campaign manager for the presidential race. In the last presidential election, Plouffe served as a senior adviser to Rep. Dick Gephardt (D-Mo.). Prior to that he served as executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee during the 2000 cycle and as deputy chief of staff to Gephardt.

David Axelrod: Axelrod, who is based in Chicago, is a well-known name in Democratic consulting circles and along with Plouffe handled the television advertising for Obama in 2004 and is expected to do the same in the presidential race. Axelrod previously worked with former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards and Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack -- two rivals for the 2008 nomination.

Robert Gibbs: Gibbs, a longtime communications operative with a special focus on the Senate, has been with Obama since shortly after his 2004 primary victory. Prior to that Gibbs served as a spokesman for Sen. John Kerry's (D-Mass.) presidential bid. Gibbs, like Plouffe, has experience in the nitty-gritty of Democratic politics, having served as the communications director at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and as campaign spokesman for Sen. Fritz Hollings (D-S.C.) in 1998. He will be the campaign's communications director.

Paul Harstad: Obama's pollster in 2004, Harstad is back on board for 2008. Based in Colorado, Harstad has had a remarkable run of success in the past few elections -- handling survey research for Obama, along with Sens. Ken Salazar (Colo.) and Clair McCaskill (Mo.).

Cornell Belcher: Belcher is one of the rising stars in the Democratic polling community, serving as the de facto in-house pollster for Howard Dean at the Democratic National Committee over the last few years. He will share polling duties with Harstad.

Julianna Smoot: Smoot is one of a series of top Obama aides who has strong ties to former Sen. Tom Daschle (D-S.D.). Smoot was finance director for Daschle during his time in the Senate, and she held the same role for John Edwards in his 1998 Senate race. Last cycle she was finance director for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and will hold the same position for Obama.

Steve Hildebrand: No one has stronger Daschle ties in Obama's new political world than Hildebrand. A South Dakota native, Hildebrand managed Sen. Tim Johnson's (D-S.D.) successful 2002 reelection race and two years later led Daschle's unsuccessful bid for a fourth term. Hildebrand also has considerable expertise in presidential politics; he ran Al Gore's 2000 Iowa caucus campaign. He will be an early state adviser to Obama.

Cassandra Butts: Butts will be charged with overseeing policy development for Obama. She, too, is an alumni of Gephardt's office and currently works at the Center for American Progress -- a progressive think tank. Butts was also a law school classmate of Obama's at Harvard.

Paul Tewes: Tewes was Hildebrand's deputy in Iowa in 2000, directing Gore's field operation in the caucuses. He went on to serve as political director at the DSCC during the 2004 cycle and then formed a consulting company with Hildebrand in 2005. Tewes will be Obama's Iowa state director.

Bill Burton: Burton will be the national press secretary for Obama's bid. He served as communications director at the DCCC for the 2006 cycle. Burton worked as a spokesman for Gephardt and then Kerry during the 2004 presidential race.

Dan Pfeiffer: Another holdover from Team Daschle, Pfeiffer will be the traveling press secretary for Obama. Pfeiffer was communications director for Tim Johnson in 2002 and then deputy campaign manager for Daschle in 2004. Following that race, Pfeiffer signed on as communications director for Sen. Evan Bayh's (D-Ind.) presidential campaign-in-waiting. When Bayh dropped from the race late last year, Pfeiffer became a free agent.

Devorah Adler: Adler was the research director at the Democratic National Committee in the 2006 cycle where she gathered information about Republicans eyeing the presidency in 2008. She'll now turn her attention to the records of Obama's Democratic rivals as the research director for the Illinois senator's national campaign.

Alyssa Mastromonaco: Mastromonaco, the political director at Obama's Hopefund PAC, will oversee scheduling and advance work for the presidential campaign.

Obama on the Web:

* Hopefund (Obama's PAC)
* Obama's Senate Voting Record
* Obama's Senate Web site

Inner Circle Archive:

* Sam Brownback (R)
* Chris Dodd (D)
* John Edwards (D)

By Chris Cillizza  |  January 16, 2007; 4:03 PM ET
Categories:  Eye on 2008 , Inner Circle  
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Next: Giuliani's Widening Circle of Advisers

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