David Mendell

Drama Club

The morning after the presidential election, a group of top Obama staffers and consultants gathered for brunch at a restaurant a few blocks from their Chicago headquarters. The mood was understandably emotional, and, before long, chief strategist David Axelrod rose to offer a valedictory. According to one person in the room, Axelrod lavished praise on his operatives for their discretion, for their collegiality, and for their resistance to all manner of Washington-think. But, even as Axelrod spoke, a burst of Washington-style drama was making a mockery of these virtues.

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The Message Keeper

In 1992, a Chicago woman named Bettylu Saltzman met Barack Obama, who had graduated from Harvard Law School one year earlier and was now in her city leading a voter-registration drive called Project Vote. Saltzman, an heiress to a shopping-mall fortune who's long been active in Democratic politics, was volunteering for Bill Clinton's presidential bid when, one day, Obama dropped by the campaign's Chicago office to discuss Project Vote. Saltzman came away from the encounter very, very impressed.

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End of the Affair

Around midnight on July 16, New York Times chief political correspondent Adam Nagourney received a terse e-mail from Barack Obama’s press office. The campaign was irked by the Times’ latest poll and Nagourney and Megan Thee’s accompanying front-page piece titled “Poll Finds Obama Isn’t Closing Divide on Race,” which was running in the morning’s paper.

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