Page last updated at 18:03 GMT, Friday, 7 November 2008

Profile: David Axelrod

David Axelrod on the campaign trail
Mr Axelrod was attracted to the campaign by Mr Obama's potential
Widely regarded as the man who steered Barack Obama towards the White House, chief campaign strategist David Axelrod is expected to take up a key role in the new administration.

The moustachioed 53-year-old is a former journalist whose love of politics led him to abandon the newsroom for the cut and thrust of electioneering.

Once a member of the political staff at the Chicago Tribune, Mr Axelrod left the newspaper in the mid-1980s, transforming himself into a political consultant and quickly making a name for himself as an expert in "urban politics".

He worked for Chicago's first black mayor, Harold Washington, helping him secure re-election in 1987 before moving on to work with a string of black candidates in cities across central and eastern states.

Since then Mr Axelrod's Chicago-based consultancy has grown inexorably and his political skills have become much in demand.

By the time thoughts in Washington began to turn towards the 2008 presidential election, Mr Axelrod had already worked with several leading Democratic candidates, including John Edwards and Hillary Clinton.

But it took the charisma and confidence of Mr Obama to inspire Mr Axelrod, a man often described as an idealist, inspired from an early age by both Robert and John F Kennedy.


Mr Obama met Mr Axelrod way back in 1992, when the future president was five years away from even winning public office in Illinois.

The two men became close, Mr Axelrod seeing in Mr Obama the raw material to reshape the national political scene.

We knew that there was a tremendous sense of jaundice about the direction of the country
David Axelrod

The pair stayed in touch, their relationship deepening over the years as Mr Obama rose from being a community organiser, through the Illinois Senate, to a seat in the US Senate.

Eventually it was the chance to achieve something remarkable with Mr Obama that drew Mr Axelrod into the long 2008 election campaign.

To Mr Axelrod, Mr Obama's background, intellect, and rhetorical gifts made him the ideal candidate to reshape old certainties.

"We knew that there was a tremendous sense of jaundice about the direction of the country and Bush certainly was part of that," Mr Axelrod told the Associated Press this week.

"Our strategy was to be the candidate of change... to challenge Washington and challenge the Bush policies and offer ourselves as a distinct and different approach to governance."


Born in 1955 in New York's Lower East Side to Jewish parents who divorced when he was young, Mr Axelrod had a politically-charged upbringing - his father fled the pogroms of eastern Europe and his mother worked in New York as a journalist on a left-wing newspaper, PM.

"I got into politics because I believe in idealism," he once told the LA Times.

His idealism propelled him through the University of Chicago and into marriage to Susan Landau, before eventually running out of steam in the Chicago Tribune newsroom.

After eight years covering local and national politics he tired of reporting and struck out on his own.

The successful consultancy businesses he now runs from Chicago represent both individual politicians seeking public office and, more controversially, corporate clients seeking publicity and influence.

And with past connections to a raft of potential Democratic candidates, Mr Axelrod was preparing to let the 2008 presidential election pass him by until Mr Obama came calling.

"We were able to overcome a lot of the things that a lot of people thought were insuperable barriers in our politics," Mr Axelrod told US TV after the Democratic victory.

"We put together a national coalition... that is what we set out to do and that is what we did."

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