As he prepares to launch a White House bid in the coming weeks, former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley has brought on a former aide to President Obama to serve as his national political director, O’Malley aides said.

The hiring of Karine Jean-Pierre comes as O’Malley seeks to firm up the senior ranks of a campaign team for a decidedly uphill battle for the Democratic nomination in a field led by Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Veteran Democratic consultant Bill Hyers has been guiding O’Malley’s political efforts for months, but O’Malley has yet to hire a campaign manager. Other aides now working for O’Malley’s political action committee have started looking at housing in Baltimore, where the campaign is expected to be based.

Jean-Pierre, whose hiring was first reported by the New York Times, served as regional political director for the White House Office of Political Affairs. Prior to that, she worked on the Obama for America campaign in 2008 as the southeast regional political director. She had served in the same capacity for the presidential campaign of John Edwards.

Jean-Pierre is also a member of the faculty at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. Among other accolades listed on a biography supplied by O’Malley aides, Jean-Pierre was recently inducted into the Haitian Roundtable’s 1804 List of Changemakers for her accomplishments in government and politics. (1804 is the year of Haiti’s independence.)

O’Malley has said repeatedly that he plans to decide whether he is moving forward with a presidential bid by the end of May. Over the weekend, he said he “wouldn’t think of announcing anyplace else” but Baltimore, the riot-scarred city he once served as mayor.

In recent months, O’Malley has been maintaining an aggressive travel schedule. He will return next week to New Hampshire, the site of the nation’s first presidential primaries.

A new poll released Thursday underscores the monumental challenge ahead for O’malley. In the Quinnipiac University survey of likely Democratic caucus participants in Iowa, Clinton was favored by 60 percent. She was followed by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) with 15 percent and Vice President Biden  with 11 percent. Both O’Malley and former Virginia senator Jim Webb received 3 percent.