David Axelrod, a top advisor to President Obama and the main architect of his election victory in 2008, will leave the White House next year and return to Chicago to work on the president’s reelection campaign, a White House aide said Thursday.
Axelrod has not specified a departure date, but he plans to remain in his current position “well into 2011,” the aide said.
Axelrod, who calls himself a “Chicagoan on assignment,” has long made it clear that he misses his hometown and will return before the end of Obama’s four-year term. His wife still lives in Chicago.
His portfolio is a broad one. He shapes the president’s message, oversees the speechwriting team, plots political strategy and advises on policy. A longtime campaign strategist, he is aware of his limitations when it comes to complex policy matters. He once made a self-deprecating reference to himself as “a duffer” when it comes to policy.
Other White House aides said part of Axelrod’s role was reminding the staff of the president’s campaign commitments and making sure that the White House agenda stayed true to Obama’s promises.
White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, a pragmatist when it comes to policy matters, once described the difference between himself and Axelrod as “prose” versus “poetry.”
Obama’s political viability, though, is one of Axelrod’s preoccupations. Steven Rattner, the former “car czar” and author of a new book about the auto industry bailout, described Axelrod as sitting in meetings discussing poll results showing the public’s disdain for bailouts.
The seven-member White House speechwriting team has described its daily conferences with Axelrod as a loose, creative exercise that is a high point in the day. But other administration figures are not so taken with Axelrod.
In the new book “Obama’s Wars,” author Bob Woodward wrote that Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, who is leading the war in Afghanistan, once called Axelrod “a complete spin doctor.”