Two-time Olympic medalist and five-time figure skating world champion Michelle Kwan has joined Joe Biden’s presidential campaign team, the campaign announced Thursday. She is expected to serve as the former vice president’s surrogate director.
Kwan worked in a similar capacity for former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s campaign and worked before that at the State Department.
The role involves lining up allies to speak on the campaign’s behalf to the media, at rallies and other events. It requires cultivating relationships with elected officials, policy wonks and celebrities, and routing them across the country and in front of microphones and cameras.
“She comes in with a lot of relationships that maybe people on the Biden team don’t have. She knows celebrities. She’s known people at the State Department for a long time. She’s going to jell very well with the people over there,” said Adrienne Elrod, a Democratic strategist who was the Clinton campaign’s director of strategic communication and surrogates.
“And any time that we needed a last-minute surrogate to go somewhere or we needed someone with star power to go somewhere on behalf of the campaign,” Elrod said, “we could just send Michelle. That’s incredibly valuable.”
Kwan joins an inner circle at the Biden campaign that is a mix of longtime backers from his years in the Senate, as well as former staffers from the Obama White House and Clinton campaign. And she will fit right in, former Clinton communications director Jennifer Palmieri said.
“It used to surprise some people on the Clinton campaign to see her at her desk in yoga pants and go, ‘That’s Michelle Kwan,’ ” Palmieri said. “I think when people heard Michelle Kwan worked at the Clinton campaign, they thought she was a spokeswoman. No, Michelle Kwan worked at the Clinton camp, in the office.”
Kwan threw her support behind Biden in an Instagram post.
“[Vice President] Biden has a reputation for getting things done,” she wrote in the post, “from implementing the most comprehensive and progressive investments in our nation’s infrastructure and clean energy industries, to writing the Violence Against Women Act, to taking on [the] NRA and winning (twice!). He’s the candidate that I’m proud to support because he will do what it takes to restore the soul of this nation, rebuild the backbone of the country, and unify America.”
Elrod and Palmieri said Biden scored a strategic hire in Kwan, who has been battle-tested.
“She, like many of us, feels like there’s a lot of unfinished out there with taking out [President] Trump, and I’m glad to see her back out there,” Elrod said.
Kwan won a silver medal at the 1998 Olympics in Nagano, Japan, and a bronze at the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City. She parlayed her success into endorsement deals.
And in her retirement from skating, she became a political strategist. She was named a public diplomacy ambassador in 2006 and in 2010 was appointed by then-President Obama to the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition. Kwan has a master’s degree from Tufts University.
“I just love her. She was a delight to work with,” Palmieri said. “A great person and a total worker bee, but then she can trade the yoga pants for an outfit for the red carpet and speak for the campaign herself.”
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