WASHINGTON – Finding a campaign manager for President Joe Biden’s re-election remains a problem for his top aides, according to multiple sources familiar with the discussions, underscoring the difficulty of finding someone who will have decision-making power. Lives in white House.
Campaign managers and other top staffers are likely to act more as implementers than as decision-makers, a reality that has been a tough sell for some seasoned political professionals.
“Do you want to have a job that has five bosses?” said a source familiar with the process, requesting anonymity to discuss internal conversations.
In response to the characterization that the Biden team faced problems in filling the campaign manager job, White House spokesman Andrew Bates said, “That is untrue.”
The sources said top Biden advisers are talking to several candidates for campaign manager and other senior leadership roles. So far, three sources familiar with the process said, recruiting has focused on individuals who have been involved in some of the most competitive 2022 midterm races as well as veterans of Biden’s 2020 campaign and the Democratic National Committee.
A person familiar with the process said the informal nature of the talks at this late stage suggests Biden advisers are simply trying to “get the right people on the bus and then figure it out from there.”
The staffing struggle is taking on new urgency, with Biden potentially launching a campaign as soon as April, according to two people familiar with the matter. Thursday’s closing of the president’s physical crossed off another item from the pre-announcement “to-do” list.
But asked about major campaign decisions that are still outstanding, Bates replied: “It’s just as inaccurate as NBC’s previous reporting on this topic.”
Robbie Mook, who managed Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, which was filled with competing power centers of its own, said the role of campaign manager will still be crucial to Biden’s re-election — even if he The person who takes the job is not calling everyone. shots.
“Yeah, there will be a lot of messaging coming out of the White House,” Mauk said. “But that doesn’t mean that the campaign manager isn’t important. It just means that the campaign manager needs to do a really good job of taking advantage of all the advantages they have.”
Those advantages include focusing on fundraising, conducting opposition research and building campaign infrastructure while Republicans decide who will be their nominee. The White House platform, and all the benefits of power, also offer a potential advantage to Biden this time around.
“You can’t build your field campaign in Wisconsin or Michigan from the White House,” Mauck said as an example. “So I think it’s a very important job. But I think appropriately the campaign is going to be looking for a manager who understands that profile.”
Inside the White House, senior adviser Anita Dunn and deputy chief of staff Jane O’Malley Dillon will play a big role, as will counselors Steve Ricchetti and Mike Donilon. Recently departed White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain has also already made it clear that he intends to join Biden’s re-election campaign, as he did four years ago.
There is also Biden’s family, including First Lady Jill Biden and her sister Valerie Biden Owens, both of whom have been closely involved in his political career.
Biden promotes a decision-making process that seeks input from that senior group on key decisions before the final sign-off, a dynamic that will continue into his 2024 campaign. And so the challenge for Biden’s team is to find a campaign manager who can work in that system, and work miles from the White House.
“They are not the quickest decision-makers,” the source said of the president and his core team, meaning that Biden’s campaign manager ultimately needs to be someone who is willing to make calls on his own and “apologise later.” To be sure.
A Biden adviser put it differently, saying that Biden’s 2020 campaign showed that campaign leaders and longtime Biden advisers worked together in clearly defined roles. The Advisor pointed to significant achievements and lack of significant turnover as an effective model in governance that will continue.
Dunn and O’Malley Dillon have experience working on presidential campaigns while top decision makers have served in the White House. Biden’s 2020 general election campaign manager, O’Malley Dillon, was President Barack Obama’s deputy campaign manager in 2012; Dunn also served as a senior advisor on Obama’s re-election.
“He knows what both the opportunities and the challenges are,” said Stephanie Cutter, who worked with O’Malley Dillon at Obama’s Chicago re-election headquarters. “The structure between the White House and the campaign needs to be extremely streamlined with the White House taking the lead on coordinating the campaign with the nominees, and vice versa.”
According to several Democrats with knowledge of the process, several individuals approached about the campaign manager job have escalated the conversation to pitch themselves for other roles or as outside consultants.
Also, those volunteering their interest in the job are seen by some members of Biden’s tight-knit team as lacking experience for the role, people close to the process say. That experience, these people said, includes overseeing a massive campaign organization and serving as a public face on camera.
One of the sources familiar with the discussions said, “I don’t know that they can’t find a campaign manager, so much that they can’t find the one they want.”
To be clear, serving in the role appeals to many operatives – and should.
“You’re running a big operation,” said a veteran Democratic operative, citing the value of the post to Obama’s re-election campaign manager, Jim Messina. “This is a great opportunity to advance your career.”
Some of the staff’s conversations with candidates have included in-person interviews in Washington, while others have taken place virtually, according to two sources familiar with the process. The sources also noted the informal nature of ongoing discussions, with potential candidates sometimes receiving emails or texts from Biden aides seeking their perspective on strategic decisions.
Biden also intends to continue relying on the Democratic National Committee. The DNC is currently hiring staff — some on a temporary basis and others that may remain longer term — to help build the initial infrastructure needed to launch the campaign.
Another major factor affecting Biden’s ability to woo top-flight staffers is where the campaign will be based. In 2020, Biden was determined to run his campaign in his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware, before advisers win him over when he is headquartered in Philadelphia. However, this time around, Wilmington appears to be a leading option.
A Biden adviser said there is also the possibility that the campaign office will be in Washington, as has been the case with previous incumbent re-election efforts. A decision could come soon on the site of the 2024 Democratic National Convention with Chicago and Atlanta, according to another Biden adviser. Of course, Biden’s team also conducted much of the 2020 campaign virtually.