The Axelrod Inner Circle
UPDATE, 2:40 p.m.: Two more additions to the weekly Wednesday meetings of White House adviser David Axelrod's inner circle.
• Jim Messina: Messina, deputy chief of staff at the White House, is a cagey campaign veteran, having long served as Montana Sen. Max Baucus' lead political guy. Messina joined the campaign after Obama won the primary as chief of staff.
• Ellen Moran: Moran, the White House communications director, was one of the few members of the Administration's senior staff not involved in the campaign in some way. She signed on after leading EMILY's List in recent years.
David Axelrod, a senior adviser to President Barack Obama and perhaps the political person closest to the former Illinois Senator, makes a somewhat unlikely presence in the White House.
Axelrod spent much of the past several decades as a campaign consultant -- one of a small band of nomadic advisers who go from race to race and measure their lives in the space of two year election cycles. (The Fix knows that pace well; it's the metronome of our life as well.)
But, according to many of those who know him best, Axelrod has always had a special relationship with Obama -- he began working with him in early 2003 -- and once the Illinois Senator was elected president it was expected that Axelrod would pick up his life in Chicago and move to join the administration.
As Jeff Zeleny of the New York Times first reported, Axelrod hasn't left his political life entirely behind -- convening a biweekly meeting at his apartment in Washington to hear from a core group of former campaign consultants and aides to ensure the Administration is striking the right political tone.
The membership of that Axelrod inner circle has largely been kept quiet -- until now.
Below you'll find the regular attendees of the Wednesday evening gatherings -- with the caveat that the membership is somewhat fluid and at any given time can shrink or grow depending on schedules.
• David Plouffe: Plouffe, the now-iconic campaign manager for Obama's presidential effort, still plays a large role in shaping the Obama brand -- particularly through his work with Organizing for America.
• Larry Grisolano: Gris, as he is known within the Obama world, was perhaps the most valuable piece of the polling and media operations. After the election, Grisolano signed on with AKPD, the media firm founded by Axelrod, following the election.
• Anita Dunn: A longtime Democratic media consultant, Dunn was a member of Obama's inner circle during the campaign and has continued that role since he became president. She is also the only regular female attendee of the Axelrod gathering.
• Joel Benenson: Benenson was one of a handful of pollsters used by Obama during the campaign but as the race wore on, he emerged as the president's go-to numbers guy and has retained that vaunted status after the campaign as well.
• John Del Cecato: Del Cecato, who spent time earlier this decade working to elect House candidates at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, has been with AKPD since 2001 and is now a partner in the firm. He was intimately involved in writing and producing a number of the Obama campaign's ads.
• Dan Pfeiffer: Pfeiffer, deputy White House communications director, has a long lineage in campaigns -- having worked in South Dakota on Senate races in 2002 and 2004 and then as a senior adviser to Evan Bayh when the Indiana Senator was considering a presidential race. When Bayh dropped, Pfeiffer quickly signed on with Obama and rose to become the communications director for the campaign.
• Jen O'Malley Dillon: O'Malley Dillon, the executive director at the Democratic National Committee, was a late arrival in Obama world -- having worked for former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards in Iowa in early 2008. She rapidly emerged as a star on the campaign, however, and eventually oversaw all battleground state activity for Obama in the general election.
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