David Axelrod’s Last Campaign

As Barack Obama’s chief campaign strategist in 2008, David Axelrod helped craft a winning message of hope and change. Now he’s back for what he says will be his final political campaign. His game plan for 2012 could determine whether Obama gets to finish what he started—or sees it all slip away

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David Axelrod
“I have one campaign left,” says Axelrod, “and it is going to be to try to elect a guy who I think is a great president.”


Q&A »
Axelrod on Chicago as the campaign HQ, what he misses about the West Wing, and more

From the archives: our December 1987 profile

Chicago’s winners and losers in Election 2008

In early June, soon after another dismal jobs report stoked anxieties about the economy—the issue that will dominate the 2012 presidential campaign—the man tasked with masterminding Barack Obama’s reelection strategy, David Axelrod, sat in the conference room of his Chicago office, legs crossed, feet shod in waterproof sandals, a picture of serenity on the eve of electoral battle. As the chief strategist behind Obama’s heady 2008 presidential campaign and for two tumultuous years the president’s top adviser in the White House, Axelrod wasn’t the type to panic over a lousy economic report.

“One of the great things about having the experiences we’ve had,” he said, referring to Obama’s core of advisers, which has remained largely intact since 2007, “is we’ve been through so many ups and downs over the last four or five years that we don’t get intoxicated when things take a good turn, and we don’t get all flustered when we hit bumps in the road.”

In a year when some of those bumps are starting to look like hills—an economy stuck on sputter, high unemployment, sagging house prices and consumer confidence, soaring deficits and debt—Axelrod’s equanimity is sure to be tested. Within the president’s circle, he carries two unofficial job titles—keeper of the long view and keeper of the brand—that reflect his role in helping Team Obama stay on message and resist the temptation to change strategy in the heat of the moment. If Karl Rove was George W. Bush’s brain, as some observers have described him, Axelrod is more like Obama’s frontal lobe—the region that patterns emotion and regulates impulse control. And as the 2012 presidential campaign heats up, Axelrod’s counsel is as calming as it is simple: Be patient.

I first caught up with Axelrod in January of this year, as he was stepping down from his White House role as senior adviser to the president, and then met with him half a dozen more times in Chicago over the course of the winter and spring, while he recovered from the crucible of the White House and geared up for what may be his last race as a political strategist. “I have one campaign left,” he told me a week before he left Washington, “and it is going to be to try to elect a guy who I think is a great president.”


Photograph: Jeff Sciortino



3 years ago
Posted by FunnyIfNotSad

Dear Mr. Axelrod: Many of us voted for Obama based on the promise of 'hope' and 'change'. We believed that he was real and genuine. Somehow, I thought we were getting a 'third way' sort of President who would actually work with Republicans and reign in the House and Senate crazy Democrat liberals. Instead, we got a plain old clueless condescending liberal who's only answer to all issues is government regulation and spending, with a certain amount of class envy thrown in for the grass roots. You misrepresented what we were buying. Don't be so shocked that it has been widely rejected.

2 years ago
Posted by sarah7272

Mr. Axelrod, I have watched you for a long time and I admire your cool head. For Obama to win in 2012, he has to do something way out of this world and you have to help him do that as you have before.
I believe that the American people have the opportunity to do something about there complaints about the do nothing congress this November, but as usual they will not. That is ashame.
Obama, to win, has to do something about jobs and the economy, not just give speeches about it. He needs to pull something out of the box that is reasonable but also that is more agressive than anything this country has ever seen and that could never be envisioned by the Republicans and he needs to drive that agenda with such force, either with the help of congress or by eddict, that has never been imagined.
The American people want better times and change and will listen to something they can understand and that has a good possibility of suceeding.
Do you believe that either of the past President Bush group would have put up with Congress being the way they are today. Not in your or my lifetime. I am counting on you and so are the American people. Everyone needs to remember that not only the President but Congress in in Washington to do the work and will of the people, not the will of the party or what they are paid to do by special interest groups, the later is call bribery.

2 years ago
Posted by conservative

mr axelrod why are liberals and obama destroying this great country,why are the liberals and obama pathological liars mitt romney needs to win this election before obama and the liberals destroy thisa country worse then they already did

2 years ago
Posted by conservative

sarah7272 you are wrong ,what the liberals are doing to this great country is apalling,mitt romney needs to win so the liberals dont destroy this great country any more then it is

2 years ago
Posted by Yes an

Yes we can !
Yes we can !
By the grace of God,
Yes we can !

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