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Hillary Clinton recruits chief strategist, media adviser for 2016 effort

Hillary Clinton is rounding out her leadership team for a likely 2016 bid. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola, File)

Hillary Rodham Clinton is building out the senior leadership team for her likely 2016 presidential campaign, enlisting Joel Benenson as her chief strategist and pollster and Jim Margolis as her media adviser, Democrats familiar with the moves said Tuesday.

Both Benenson and Margolis are veteran Democratic operatives who worked on President Obama’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns.

On the likely Clinton campaign, they would work closely with two other aides that have been previously reported: John Podesta, who is expected to leave his White House post as counselor to Obama in February to serve as Clinton’s campaign chairman and enforcer, and Robby Mook, who would become campaign manager, these Democrats said.

Benenson, who is based in New York, served as the lead pollster on Obama’s campaigns, but is poised to take on a broader portfolio for Clinton as her chief strategist, the role David Axelrod played for Obama. Politico reported last week that Benenson was advising Clinton as she makes a final decision about a presidential run.

“His role in helping her to think this through is to provide both his specific expertise and counsel,” said one person familiar with the effort.

People familiar with the Clinton operation said polling responsibilities would be divided among Benenson’s firm and other Democratic pollsters, including two others that worked on Obama’s campaign: John Anzalone and David Binder.

Benenson helped guide then-candidate Barack Obama’s primary campaign against Clinton in 2008 as well as the general election he won that year. Benenson also worked for Obama during his 2012 reelection. He previously worked for former president Bill Clinton.

His biography on his firm’s web site lists him as “the only Democratic pollster in history to have played a leading role in three winning presidential campaigns.”

Margolis is a longtime political adviser to Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) and has worked on the campaigns of many Senate Democrats. His firm, GMMB, is a prominent Democratic media firm and one of the few with a production, creative and media-buying staff large enough to handle a campaign on the scale of the one Clinton is likely to build.

In 2008, Clinton relied on Mark Penn - a pollster and former adviser to husband Bill Clinton - as her chief strategist. Penn was widely blamed for being an architect of her failed strategy in that year’s Democratic primaries and many Clinton allies have encouraged her to turn elsewhere for counsel this time around.

Dan Balz contributed to this report.