David Axelrod (political consultant)

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David Axelrod
David Axelrod (political consultant)

David Axelrod talking to reporters in the "spin room" after a 2008 Democratic primary debate

Senior Advisor to the
President of the United States
Assumed office 
January 20, 2009
President Barack Obama

Born February 22, 1955 (1955-02-22) (age 54)
Lower East Side, Manhattan, New York
Political party Democratic
Spouse Susan Landau
Children Lauren Axelrod, Michael Axelrod, Ethan Axelrod
Alma mater University of Chicago
Occupation Senior Advisor to President Obama
Religion Judaism

David Axelrod (born February 22, 1955) is a Jewish-American political consultant based in Chicago, Illinois. He is best known as a top advisor to Barack Obama, first in Obama's 2004 campaign for the U.S. Senate in Illinois and later as chief strategist for Obama's 2008 presidential campaign. Following the 2008 Election, he was appointed as Senior Advisor to President Obama.[1]

Axelrod is the founder of AKP&D Message and Media, and was a political writer for the Chicago Tribune. He also operated ASK Public Strategies. He is also a supporter of Cook County Commissioner Forrest Claypool, who helped Axelrod begin his firm (under the name Axelrod and Associates).


[edit] Biography

[edit] Early life

Born on New York's Lower East Side, Axelrod grew up in a middle-class Jewish household and showed a passion for politics early. Axelrod grew up in Stuyvesant Town in the East Village of Manhattan.[2] He went to P.S. 40. Axelrod's father was a psychologist and avid baseball fan.[3] His mother worked as a journalist at PM, a left-wing 1940s newspaper. His parents separated when he was eight. Axelrod traces his political involvement back to his childhood. Describing the appeal of politics, he told the Los Angeles Times, "I got into politics because I believe in idealism. Just to be a part of this effort that seems to be rekindling the kind of idealism that I knew when I was a kid, it's a great thing to do.[4] So I find myself getting very emotional about it." At just 13 years old, he was selling campaign buttons for Robert F. Kennedy.

After attending Stuyvesant High School[3] in Manhattan, Axelrod attended the University of Chicago. There he majored in political science. He met his future wife, business student Susan Landau, there. They were married in 1979. In June 1981, Susan gave birth to their daughter, Lauren. Lauren is diagnosed with epilepsy.[5] As an undergraduate, Axelrod wrote for the Hyde Park Herald, covering politics, and picked up an internship at the Chicago Tribune. They hired him when he graduated in 1977.

[edit] Career

At the age of 27, Axelrod became the City Hall Bureau Chief and a political columnist for the Chicago Tribune. He worked at the Tribune for eight years, covering national, state and local politics. He became the youngest political writer there in 1981.[6] Unhappy with his prospects at the Tribune, in 1984 he joined the campaign of U.S. Senator Paul Simon as communications director; within weeks he was promoted to co-campaign manager.[7]

In 1985, Axelrod formed a political consultancy company, Axelrod & Associates. In 1987, he worked on the successful reelection campaign of Harold Washington, Chicago's first black mayor. This established his first experience in working with black politicians and he later became a key player in similar mayoral campaigns of blacks, including Dennis Archer in Detroit, Michael R. White in Cleveland, Anthony A. Williams in Washington, D.C., Lee P. Brown in Houston, and John F. Street in Philadelphia.[2] Axelrod is a longtime strategist for Chicago mayor Richard M. Daley and styles himself a "specialist in urban politics."

In 2002, Axelrod was retained by the Liberal Party of Ontario to help Dalton McGuinty and his party to be elected into government in the October 2003 Election. Axelrod's effect on Ontario was heard through the winning Liberal appeal to "working families" and Axelrod also devised the party's winning 2003 "choose change" slogan.

In 2004, Axelrod worked for the presidential campaign of John Edwards. During the campaign, he lost responsibility for making ads, but continued as the campaign's spokesman. Regarding Edwards' failed 2004 presidential campaign, Axelrod has commented, "I have a whole lot of respect for John, but at some point the candidate has to close the deal and—I can’t tell you why—that never happened with John."[8][9]

In 2006, Axelrod consulted for several campaigns, including for the successful campaigns of Eliot Spitzer in New York's gubernatorial election and for Deval Patrick in Massachusetts's gubernatorial election. Axelrod also served in 2006 as the chief political adviser for Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chair U.S. Representative Rahm Emanuel for the U.S. House of Representatives elections, in which the Democrats gained 31 seats.

Until recently, Axelrod also worked as an Adjunct Professor of Communication Studies at Northwestern University, where he, along with Professor Peter Miller, taught an undergraduate class titled Campaign Strategy, a class that analyzed political campaigns, the strategies used by them, and the effectiveness of those strategies. http://www.whitehouse.gov/administration/staff/david_axelrod/

[edit] Barack Obama presidential campaign

Axelrod and Barack Obama's ties reach back more than a decade. Axelrod met Obama in 1992 when Obama so impressed Betty Lu Saltzmann, a woman from Chicago's "lakefront liberal crowd," during a black voter registration drive he ran that she then introduced the two. Obama also consulted Axelrod before he delivered his famed 2002 anti-war speech[10] and asked him to read drafts of his book, The Audacity of Hope.[11]

Axelrod served as the chief strategist and media advisor for Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign. Axelrod contemplated taking a break from the 2008 presidential campaign, as five of the candidates—Barack Obama, Hillary Rodham Clinton, John Edwards, Christopher Dodd, and Tom Vilsack—were past clients. Personal ties between Axelrod and Hillary Clinton also made it difficult, as she had done significant work on behalf of epilepsy causes for a foundation co-founded by Axelrod's wife and mother, Citizens United for Research in Epilepsy (CURE) (Axelrod's daughter suffers from developmental disabilities associated with chronic epileptic seizures.) Axelrod's wife even said that a 1999 conference Clinton convened on finding a cure for the condition was "one of the most important things anyone has done for epilepsy."[12]

However, Axelrod decided to participate in the Obama campaign. Ultimately, he viewed Obama's potential candidacy as inspirational and historic. He often likens Obama to Robert F. Kennedy and told The Washington Post, "I thought that if I could help Barack Obama get to Washington, then I would have accomplished something great in my life."[3]

Axelrod contributed to the initial announcement of Obama's campaign by creating a five-minute Internet video released January 16, 2007.[13][14]He continued to use 'man on the street' style biographical videos to create intimacy and authenticity in the political ads.

While the Clinton campaign chose an incumbent strategy that emphasized experience, Axelrod helped to craft the Obama campaign's main theme of "change." Axelrod criticized the Clinton campaign's positioning by saying that "being the consummate Washington insider is not where you want to be in a year when people want change...[Clinton's] initial strategic positioning was wrong and kind of played into our hands."[15] The change message played a factor in Obama's victory in the Iowa caucuses. "Just over half of [Iowa's] Democratic caucus-goers said change was the No. 1 factor they were looking for in a candidate, and 51 percent of those voters chose Barack Obama," said CNN senior political analyst Bill Schneider. "That compares to only 19 percent of 'change' caucus-goers who preferred Clinton."[16] Axelrod also believed that the Clinton campaign underestimated the importance of the caucus states. "For all the talent and the money they had over there," says Axelrod, "they - bewilderingly - seemed to have little understanding for the caucuses and how important they would become."[16] In the 2008 primary season, Obama won a majority of the states that use the caucus format.

Axelrod is credited with implementing a strategy that encourages the participation of people, a lesson drawn partly from Howard Dean's 2004 presidential campaign as well as a personal goal of Barack Obama. Axelrod explained to Rolling Stone magazine, "When we started this race, Barack told us that he wanted the campaign to be a vehicle for involving people and giving them a stake in the kind of organizing he believed in. According to Axelrod getting volunteers involved became the legacy of the campaign "[17] This includes drawing on "Web 2.0" technology and viral media to support a grassroots strategy. Obama's web platform allows supporters to blog, create their own personal page, and even phonebank from home. Axelrod's elaborate use of the Internet has helped Obama to organize under-30 voters and build over 475,000 donors in 2007, most of whom were Internet donors contributing less than $100 each.[18] The Obama strategy stood in contrast to Hillary Clinton's campaign, which benefited from high name recognition, large donors and strong support among established Democratic leaders.

The Politico described Axelrod as 'soft-spoken' and 'mild-mannered'[19] and it quoted one Obama aide in Chicago as saying, "Do you know how lucky we are that he is our Mark Penn?"[20] Democratic consultant and former colleague Dan Fee said of Axelrod, "He's a calming presence."[21] "He's not a screamer, like some of these guys," political advisor Bill Daley said of Axelrod in the Chicago Tribune. "He has a good sense of humor, so he's able to defuse things."[7]

In late April and early May, Barack Obama's former pastor Jeremiah Wright criticized Axelrod's influence on Obama. The New York Times reported that Wright said of Axelrod "while he was expert at promoting black candidates with white voters, he did not know much about relating to the black community...They're spiriting him away from people in the African-American community. David doesn't know the African-American church scene."[22]

[edit] Consulting Services

David Axelrod's political consulting services are operated through his firm AKP&D Message & Media. He also operates a second business from the same office, ASK Public Strategies, which creates strategy and advertising campaigns for corporate clients.[23] The partners include Eric Sedler (the "S" in ASK), 39, a former public relations director at AT&T and corporate-reputation specialist at PR giant Edelman and the company's managing partner, and John Kupper (the "K" in ASK), 51, a former congressional press secretary and ad-industry consultant.[23]

ASK's operations, client roster, and revenue remain confidential,[23] but customers and public records confirm the agency has run campaigns for the Chicago Children's Museum, ComEd, Cablevision, and AT&T.[23] The firm has helped set up front organizations that were listed as sponsors of public-issue ads, a practice referred to as "astroturfing."[23]

In 2004 Cablevision hired ASK to set up a group similar to CORE to help block a new stadium for the New York Jets in Manhattan.[23] ASK's $1.1 million fee was listed as the "largest lobbying contract" of the year in the annual report of the state's lobbying commission.[24]

In 2006, Commonwealth Edison hired ASK to create a group known as CORE, which described itself on its Web site as "a coalition of individuals, businesses and organizations," supporting a rate hike. After a complaint was filed with state regulators, ComEd acknowledged that it had bankrolled the entire $15 million effort.[23]

In 2007, the University of Chicago Hospital hired ASK to assist in marketing a plan for steering patients who don't have health insurance to other health care facilities. The plan has critics in the community, however, who see it as a way to dump costly patients and increase the hospital's bottom line.[25][26]

[edit] References

  1. ^ Smith, Ben (November 19, 2008). "Ben Smith's Blog: Axelrod, and other senior staff". Politico. http://www.politico.com/blogs/bensmith/1108/Axelrod_and_other_senior_staff.html?showall. Retrieved on 2008-11-19. 
  2. ^ a b Hayes, Christopher (February 6, 2007). "Obama's Media Maven". The Nation. http://www.thenation.com/doc/20070219/hayes. Retrieved on 2008-10-28. 
  3. ^ a b c Kaiser, Robert G. (May 2, 2008). "The Player at Bat - David Axelrod, the Man With Obama's Game Plan, Is Also the Candidate's No. 1 Fan". The Washington Post. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/05/01/AR2008050103509.html?nav=hcmodule. Retrieved on 2008-05-06. 
  4. ^ La Ganga, Maria L. (February 15, 2008). "The man behind Obama's message". Los Angeles Times. http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-axelrod15feb15,1,2986209.story. Retrieved on 2008-04-28. 
  5. ^ Greene, Melissa Fay (2009-02-15). "I Must Save My Child". Parade Magazine. http://www.parade.com/health/2009/02/susan-axelrod-CURE-epilepsy.html. Retrieved on 2009-02-15. 
  6. ^ "Partners — David Axelrod". AKPD Message and Media. http://www.akpdmedia.com/partners/daxelrod.html. Retrieved on 2008-04-28. 
  7. ^ a b Reardon, Patrick T. (June 24, 2007). "The Agony and the Agony". Chicago Tribune. http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/chi-070620axelrod-htmlstory,1,3883059.htmlstory. Retrieved on 2008-04-04. 
  8. ^ Montgomery, David (February 15, 2007). "Barack Obama's On-Point Message Man". Washington Post. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/02/14/AR2007021401812.html. Retrieved on 08-04-22. 
  9. ^ Wallace-Wells, Ben (April 1, 2007). "Obama's Narrator". http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/01/magazine/01axelrod.t.html?ref=politics. Retrieved on 2008-04-22. 
  10. ^ Becker, Jo; Christopher Drew (May 11, 2008). "Obama's Pragmatic Politics, Forged on the South Side". The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/11/us/politics/11chicago.html?pagewanted=5&hp. Retrieved on 2008-05-12. 
  11. ^ Scott, Janny (May 18, 2008). "Obama’s Story, Written by Obama". The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/18/us/politics/18memoirs.html?pagewanted=3&hp. Retrieved on 2008-05-18. 
  12. ^ Wallace-Wells, Ben (March 30, 2007). "A star strategist offers Democrats a new vision". International Herald Tribune. http://www.iht.com/articles/2007/03/30/news/obama.php. Retrieved on 2008-05-06. 
  13. ^ "Biography of Barack Obama" (Video from Barack Obama's exploratory committee). YouTube. barackobama.com. January 16, 2007. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zFBF5AeliNQ. 
  14. ^ Obama, Barack (January 16, 2007). "My Plans for 2008" (Obama's YouTube video announcement of that he would file papers on January 16, 2007 to form an exploratory committee). barackobamadotcom. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H5h95s0OuEg. Retrieved on 2008-11-11. 
  15. ^ Tumulty, Karen (May 8, 2008). "The Five Mistakes Clinton Made". Time. http://news.yahoo.com/s/time/20080508/us_time/thefivemistakesclintonmade. Retrieved on 2008-05-08. 
  16. ^ a b Crowley, Candy (January 4, 2008). "Obama wins Iowa as candidate for change". CNN. http://www.cnn.com/2008/POLITICS/01/03/iowa.dems/index.html. Retrieved on 2008-05-08. 
  17. ^ Dickinson, Tim (March 20, 2008). "The Machinery of Hope". Rolling Stone. http://www.rollingstone.com/news/coverstory/obamamachineryofhope/page/2. Retrieved on 2008-04-28. 
  18. ^ Stirland, Sarah Lai (February 14, 2008). "The Tech of Obamamania: Online Phone Banks, Mass Texting and Blogs". Wired. http://www.wired.com/politics/law/news/2008/02/potomac_primaries. Retrieved on 2008-02-21. 
  19. ^ Simon, Roger (March 20, 2007). "The Democrats Turn Tough -- on Each Other". Politico.com. http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0307/3213.html. Retrieved on 2008-05-08. 
  20. ^ Brown, Carrie Budoff (April 27, 2008). "Obama team remains unshaken and unstirred". Politico.com. http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0408/9891.html. Retrieved on 2008-04-28. 
  21. ^ Fitzgerald, Thomas (December 30, 2007). "Helping hone Obama's pitch". Politico.com. http://www.philly.com/inquirer/politics/national/12923012.html. Retrieved on 2008-05-07. 
  22. ^ Powell, Michael (May 1, 2008). "A Strained Wright-Obama Bond Finally Snaps". The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/01/us/politics/01wright.html?_r=1&hp&oref=slogin. Retrieved on 2008-05-01. 
  23. ^ a b c d e f g Wolinsky, Howard (March 14, 2008). "The Secret Side of David Axelrod". BusinessWeek. http://www.businessweek.com/bwdaily/dnflash/content/mar2008/db20080314_121054.htm. 
  24. ^ Isikoff, Michael (June 2, 2008). "Obama’s Lobbyist Connection". Newsweek. http://www.newsweek.com/id/138519. 
  25. ^ Novak, Tim and Chris Fusco (August 23, 2008). "University of Chicago shunning poor patients?; Hospital dispute: Obama's wife, 3 aides tied to plan to free up space". Chicago Sun Times. http://www.suntimes.com/news/politics/obama/1122691,CST-NWS-hosp23.article. 
  26. ^ "ASK Public Strategies". Sourcewatch: A Project of the Center for Media and Democracy. http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=ASK_Public_Strategies. 

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