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Hatchet Man: The Rise of David Axelrod

From our December 1987 issue: On the man who would be the Obama’s chief campaign strategist

(page 1 of 4)

 

The gray Ford Tempo sedan is rumbling along country roads between Des Moines and Knoxville, Iowa. It is a hot June morning, and the air conditioning in the Ford is jacked up high. Jeanne Simon, the wife of U.S. Senator Paul Simon, sits in the back seat, next to political consultant David Axelrod. The senator, who has just announced for the Presidency, is riding up ahead in another car, and for half an hour Axelrod dishes out gossip, wisecracks, and political advice to Simon’s alter ego.

Axelrod is a tall, black-haired man of 32 with crafty eyes, a thick mustache, and a high part. When he was the Tribune’s chief political writer, Axelrod used to appear on Channel 11’s Chicago Week in Review; afterward, viewers would ask the host, “Who’s the guy who looks like Hitler?” Actually, Axelrod looks more like some exotic rodent that might come out of the woods at night to topple your garbage. His forelock is invariably mussed and his shirttail out—"like an unmade bed,” sighs Axelrod’s mother.

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