David Hobbs is nothing if not relentless. Take his unsuccessful House bid against Democratic Rep. Pete Geren (Tex.) in 1992.
"I knocked on 10,000 doors and lost 40 pounds," said Hobbs, who's willing to admit that his persistence didn't exactly pay off. "I got my butt kicked. I like to say I got 75,000 votes to Geren's 125,000, instead of 62 to 37 percent, or whatever it is."
In general, however, Hobbs's dogged approach to the task at hand has paid off. Last week, President Bush chose him to be the White House's chief lobbyist, a promotion from his current role as the administration's House liaison. His title is special assistant to the president and he's head of the White House Office of Legislative Affairs.
"If ever anyone was born for a certain job, this is it," said Ed Gillespie, who collaborated with Hobbs when the two men worked for House Majority Leader Richard K. Armey (R-Tex.). "He is a creature of Congress. He loves the legislative process. He loves policy and loves politics."
Rather than couch his legislative approach in elegant language, Hobbs, 44, frames it in simple terms. "You get up every morning and try to do the right thing for the right reasons, and things generally work out," he said.
In the early days of the Republican Revolution, Hobbs was a fixture on C-SPAN, one of those floor staffers who made sure the legislative gears worked. Having worked on and off the Hill since 1978, he pushed GOP leaders to take a few risks on tough votes, while delegating authority to senior members when it made more sense.
"When I first became the majority leader, I had difficulty that first week running the floor," Armey recalled. "It was David who showed me the value of letting each chairman who had a bill on the floor manage the bill on the floor."
Now that he's the president's top emissary on Capitol Hill, Hobbs will need to reach out to the Senate as well as his old friends in the House leadership. He said that while he recognizes the two chambers have different cultures, he can operate in either one.
"When it comes down to it, lobbying or representing the president comes down to member to member," he said. "The rules may be different, but they both still vote."
During the president's first two years, Hobbs served as a conduit for information between the White House and congressional leaders, allowing the two branches to work closely on issues including trade, education and taxes.
"Clearly the House gave the president the momentum he needed to pass his initiatives. David Hobbs was a big part of that," said White House Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr.
According to several party officials, Hobbs is particularly skilled at forging consensus within the GOP. When President Bush wanted broad leeway in moving around funds Congress appropriated for the new Department on Homeland Security, for example, Hobbs brokered a compromise that gave the administration more limited flexibility.
"David's a dealmaker," said John Feehery, spokesman for House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.).
Hobbs's skills for consensus building, however, rarely extend to Democrats. One House Democratic leadership aide, who asked not to be identified, said Hobbs and other White House lobbyists bypassed the party's leadership altogether the past two years.
"We never see them. They never deal with us," the aide said, adding the snub was more a result of the president's strategy than a reflection of Hobbs personally.
Hobbs has worked tirelessly to push the president's agenda, even though he was recently diagnosed with testicular cancer and is undergoing chemotherapy. He jokes about the side effects, such as his loss of hair.
"My head is actually better looking than I thought," he said, adding that he's gotten support from everyone ranging from the president to security guards at the White House gate.
Born in Pittsburgh but raised in Houston, Hobbs came to Washington more than two decades ago as a summer intern for then-Rep. Bill Archer (R-Tex.). He worked for Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.), and then joined Armey's staff for a few years before returning to work at a Texas think tank.
When the Republicans took control of Congress in 1995, Hobbs rejoined Armey's camp, staying there until Bush hired him as deputy assistant to the office of legislative affairs.
Card said that even though Republicans control both chambers of Congress again, Hobbs still has a difficult task ahead. "Republicans working together will be able to set the agenda," Card said. "That doesn't mean we have the votes."
And despite his exhaustive knowledge of legislative arcana, Hobbs recognizes the White House can't rely on procedural tricks to get its way in Congress.
"It's very hard to thwart the will of the House or the Senate," Hobbs said. "There's really no magic bullet."