As part of its reelection strategy, the White House has been asking prominent Democratic strategists for advice in a way that, many of those outside consultants say, shows that the administration has finally started listening to them.
And one person in the White House reaching out to them personally is none other than Joe Biden. The vice president has personally called Democratic strategists, like the TV familiars Donna Brazile and Bob Beckel, to ask them about politics and policy as the campaign season heats up.
“Biden does reach out to a lot of people,” said one strategist, who, like most interviewed for this story, would speak only without being named. “Joe’s the kind of guy – he asks good questions.”
Another consultant described Biden’s advisory circle as informal in the sense that allies “run into him around town” and that “he’s very approachable.”
Strategists say the obvious role for Biden in the reelection campaign is to stump in blue-collar and Appalachia regions that are key battlegrounds, like Pennsylvania and Ohio, and to shore up Jewish support in Florida.
At a recent briefing with reporters, the former White House adviser David Axelrod, who is now aiding President Obama’s campaign, called Biden a great campaigner and said that “we’ll see him on the stump as much as we can have him.”
Other senior staff members in the White House, like chief of staff Bill Daley and former campaign manager David Plouffe, have been inclusive, the strategists say, particularly by speaking every week with Democratic strategists on a conference call or, sometimes, in the Roosevelt Room. Some Democrats said that Plouffe has ensured that White House officials listen intently on the calls, instead of merely giving lip service, which some claimed was the case before the senior adviser arrived in January. They described a more welcoming “stylistic difference” since Plouffe took over.
“I do find that Plouffe is putting his feelers out and listening,” one said.
And at some of the meetings in the Roosevelt Room that involve 15 to 20 of the strategists, Obama himself has dropped by.
The group being consulted includes highly recognizable members of Washington’s pundit circle, as well as other less visible people. Nearly every strategist in the know described the conferences as a two-way street, where White House officials will tell them what they’re planning for the upcoming week or month and ask for their input. The Democratic National Committee also loops the strategists in on weekly calls to coordinate messaging with the campaign.
“I believe they are reaching out more aggressively,” Beckel, who is on the Fox News show “The Five,” told ABC News.
Early on in the Obama administration, outside Democrats complained that the White House was faltering in communicating a coherent message, and that when they tried to help, officials weren’t receptive. Now, many of them say, the doors have been opened, and the White House acknowledges the importance of using surrogates — particularly its allies who speak on cable networks — to spread its message.
Said another well-known strategist, “They’re educating and enlightening us.”