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David Plouffe

Former White House senior adviser (January 2011-January 2013)

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Why He Matters

The architect of Obama's successful 2008 presidential campaign, Plouffe is considered one of the best political minds in the Democratic Party. As senior adviser David Axelrod departed after two years, Plouffe joined the Obama White House in early 2011 to replace him.

In his acceptance speech on election night, Obama thanked Plouffe immediately after his family, calling him "the unsung hero of this campaign, who built the best - the best political campaign, I think, in the history of the United States of America."

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At a Glance

  • Career History: Senior adviser at AKPD Message and Media (since February 2004); Adviser to Richard A. Gephardt's presidential campaign (2004); Senior adviser at AKPD (2000 to 2004); Executive Director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (1999 to 2000); Deputy Chief of Staff for Rep. Richard Gephardt (1997 to 1999)
  • Hometown: Wilmington, Del.
  • Alma Mater: University of Delaware, attended 1985 to 1988
 

Path to Power

Plouffe grew up in Delaware, the third of five children of working-class parents. In his senior yearbook, he joked that he was going to move to Atlantic City and "join the mob." But that plan was tossed aside while Plouffe went to the University of Delaware to study political science.

During the summer of 1988, after his junior year in college, Plouffe left school when he got a job working on the Delaware Senate campaign of Sam Beard (D). His constitutional law professor at Delaware tells a story about talking to Plouffe after he missed a lot of class and seemed uninterested in school. "He told me he was more interested in practical politics," Jim Magee said. In Beard's campaign, Plouffe quickly worked his way up to a leadership role, eventually becoming field staff superviser. The campaign lost by 71 votes, "and it really struck me that if any of us had worked a little harder, we could have scrounged up another 71 votes," Plouffe said.

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The Issues

Plouffe is first and foremost a campaign strategist, and he will long be remembered for masterminding Obama's historic 2008 presidential campaign.

During the Democratic primary, Plouffe's strategy focused on Iowa, the first caucus in the nation's primary. Plouffe had intimate knowledge of the Iowa caucuses from his years working for Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), and he was convinced Obama could win there. After Obama volunteers overwhelmed the state in late 2007, Obama pulled off the surprise victory over Hillary Rodham Clinton and Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.).

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The Network

Plouffe has worked closely with some of the most influential politicians in America. Other than President Barack Obama, the list includes Sen. Harkin, Gov. Patrick (D-Mass.) and former House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.). He is also close to 2012 Obama campaign manager Jim Messina, who served as his deputy in the 2008 race.

At AKP&D, Plouffe has worked with Obama senior adviser David Axelrod, John Kupper and John Del Cecato. Kupper joined AKP&D in 1988 and was formerly a press secretary for Rep. Henry Reuss (D-Wis.). Del Cecato has worked press for Tom Vilsack's (D-Iowa) 1998 run for governor and was the national spokesman for the DCCC before joining AKP&D.

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