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The Busy Life of Obama Scheduler Alyssa Mastromonaco
In the Bush White House, for instance, nine people -- including political boss Karl Rove when he was still on staff -- meet weekly to sift through some 1,000 requests and decide where the president should go. A confidential electronic calendar charts everything in the mix for the next 18 months to two years; wall boards in the scheduling office document flow charts for each day over the next four months. "There are no surprises!" said Patterson. "No one wants to be surprised."
"The flow of communications seems daunting for sure," said Mastromonaco, who has been debriefing current and former White House staffers, including Betty Currie, who worked for President Clinton. "We really had it down to a science in the campaign, and getting to know a load of new people and prove yourself once again is an exhausting thought."
Because she didn't travel with Obama or speak to reporters, Mastromonaco was the least-known member of the senior campaign team. But she became closer to the candidate personally, and played a more influential role in developing and executing campaign strategy, than did some of her more visible colleagues.
Her credits include all of Obama's high-profile appearances, from his announcement speech in Springfield, Ill., to the Berlin rally before 250,000 to the Denver convention speech and the election night celebration in Chicago's Grant Park. She choreographed Obama's 2006 book tour, his debate "camps" and the secret negotiations that led up to Sen. Joseph Biden Jr.'s selection as his running mate.
She's made her share of mistakes. Early on, Mastromonaco booked a private plane for the wrong day. Obama shrugged it off and flew commercial. Days of ridicule might have been avoided had she caught the faux presidential seal before it was unveiled at a June event. At the end of the Europe trip, a visit to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany was abruptly canceled after U.S. military officials argued that Obama would be visiting the hospital as a candidate, instead of as a senator.
But over two years, "she just hung the moon," said campaign manager David Plouffe. "Every time we had a high-wire act, Alyssa would come through." Her plans to get Obama into as many markets as possible between the South Carolina primary and Super Tuesday -- just 10 days -- were, said Plouffe, "a thing of beauty."
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Her first memory of event planning is from nursery school. Her signature blend of extroverted insistence on organization and political savvy asserted itself when she threw an elaborate party for one of her teachers. She called a meeting with her fellow 4-year-olds and gave each of them an assignment: cupcakes, streamers, balloons.
"The teachers scolded me for organizing a rogue party!" Mastromonaco remembers. "But I had all bases covered."
The daughter of a business consultant and a high school teacher, she grew up in Rhinebeck, N.Y., and started in politics on the fringe, while she was studying French and Japanese at the University of Vermont. It was 1996, and Rep. Bernie Sanders, the frumpy and somewhat prickly socialist since turned senator, was seeking a fourth House term. He showed up at her dorm to campaign; she decided to intern for him.
"He would ask about my life, and talk to me about what was happening in Washington, D.C.," when she drove him to events or hung around the office, she said. "Even though I was just a sophomore in college, he treated me like I had a brain and something to contribute."