David Simas, who directs the White House's office of political strategy and outreach, will join the Obama Foundation as its chief executive, foundation officials announced Monday.
Simas, a native of Taunton, Mass., has served as President Obama's top political aide since early 2014. The fact that he is helping establish his presidential center in Chicago provides the latest indication that Obama intends to engage in political activism after leaving office.
Simas, who worked as director of opinion research for Obama's reelection campaign, served as a liaison between the president and Democratic officials over the past two and a half years. Although Democrats just lost the White House and failed to regain control of either the Senate or House, Obama stepped up his involvement in federal and state races under Simas's tenure.
“In the year ahead, the Obama Foundation will continue the important work of creating a Presidential Center that inspires citizens and communities to take on big challenges,” Simas said in a statement. “I am honored to be serving the President and First Lady and thrilled to be a part of working to fulfill this mission.”
Marty Nesbitt, who chairs the Obama Foundation, called Simas's decision to join its leadership “an invaluable addition to our team as we enter an important year for the foundation.”
The nonprofit foundation will not be involved in electoral activity, but Obama has spoken of his desire to recruit the next generation of public servants and political activists through his presidential center.
Both Simas and Obama share a concern about the growing political polarization that has arisen as the result of America's fractured media landscape. Speaking to reporters Friday, the president emphasized that his party needs to make a greater effort to reach all Americans with a broad message.
“I described to you earlier what I think needs to happen, which is that the Democratic Party, whether that’s entirely through the [Democratic National Committee] or through a rebuilding of state parties or some other arrangement, has to work at the grass-roots level, has to be present in all 50 states, has to have a presence in counties, has to think about message and how are we speaking directly to voters,” Obama said. “I always said, first and foremost we’re Americans, that we have a common creed, that there’s more that we share than divides us, and I want to talk to everybody and get a chance to get everybody’s vote.”