At a Glance
- Career History:
adviser (January 2009-January 2011) Partner of AKP&D Message and Media formerly known as Axelrod & Associates (since 1985); Partner ASK Public Strategies (since 2002); Media Adviser to Barack Obama (2004 and 2008)
- Birthday: Feb. 22, 1955
- Hometown: New York, N.Y.
- Alma Mater: University of Chicago, B.A. (political science), 1977
Path to Power
If the traditional image of a Washington political adviser has a polar opposite, it would be Axelrod. Though he owns a few suits and ties, they often seem reserved for television appearances. Just as often on the campaign trail, Axelrod can be seen schlepping beside his natty candidate wearing a pullover sweater, open collar and a droopy mustache often described as "damp."
Axelrod grew up on the Lower East Side of New York City and was bitten early by the political bug. His mom, Myril, wrote for PM, a leftist daily newspaper in New York bankrolled by Chicago millionaire Marshall Field III and often accused of having ties to the Communist Party. His dad, Joseph, was a psychologist and standout amateur baseball player. Axelrod's parents divorced when he was just a boy and his father later committed suicide, devastating the son who would eventually write that it took him 30 years "to say out loud that the man I most loved and admired took his own life."
Axelrod told reporters during the 2008 campaign that he had no intention of leaving Chicago if Obama won. When he agreed to go, he emphasized that he never intends to call Washington home. "Just to be clear, I am not moving from Chicago - just doing a little public service for a while."
Leaving most of his family home in Chicago, Axelrod in early 2009 rented an apartment a few blocks from the White House - with a view of the Washington Monument - and settled into a life that consists of long hours at work, five hours or so of sleep at night and a diet that added 20 pounds to his already stout frame. The leather jacket and casual button-down shirts Axelrod favored in Chicago are largely gone from public view in Washington. He bought four new suits and a bunch of neckties in deference to his new position.
Despite the reported drama between Obama's chief aides during the first year of his presidency, Axelrod and Obama Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel have a long history of cooperation. The pair first worked together in 1984 on the Senate campaign of Paul Simon (D) in Illinois. Five years later, they joined forces to help Chicago Mayor's Richard M. Daley's (D) with his first campaign in 1989.
In 2002, Axelrod helped Emanuel win election to Congress in a blue-collar district in Chicago.Four years later, when Emanuel was running the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Axelrod was brought in as his chief strategist, helping Democrats capture 31 House seats and end 12 years of Republican control.