WASHINGTON –Chicago native Patti Solis Doyle, former Clinton campaign manager jettisoned in the final months of the primary, joins the Obama team as the chief of staff to Sen. Barack Obama’s eventual running mate, as Michelle Obama beefs up her operation with a new chief of staff.
For tea leaf readers: The Solis Doyle appointment could be seen as a sign that Sen. Hillary Clinton is drifting down and out from Obama’s vice presidential short list. The minus is that perhaps Obama should not have sent this signal so soon, as he is busy wooing disgruntled Clinton supporters.
Doyle — the sister of Ald. Danny Solis (25th) — is close to Obama chief strategist David Axelrod, and the Obama trusted inner-circle is essentially a close-knit group of people who have known one another for years.
The Doyle move was one of more than a dozen additions and reassignments the Obama campaign announced on Monday as it adds to its staff for the general election. GOP presumptive nominee Sen. John McCain has had a running start in putting together a November operation. Still, the Obama team has been planning a general election contest for months.
Doyle becomes Obama’s most prominent Hispanic staffer and can provide an important bridge to convert die-hard female Clinton backers to Obama.
Doyle will move to Chicago from Washington to set up and run the campaign operation for Obama’s vice presidential pick starting in July. Whoever is Obama’s running mate will have a team in place — scheduling, advance, press, policy, speechwriting, etc. — from the moment he or she is picked.
Doyle, who first started working for the Clintons in the 1992 presidential campaign — moving from Chicago’s City Hall to Arkansas — phoned Clinton to tell her about her Obama position before it was announced. Clinton congratulated her.
Michelle Obama — her husband’s chief surrogate but herself something of a lightning rod — bulks up her team with a new chief of staff, Stephanie Cutter, who comes from the Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) political operation and who was communications chief for the 2004 Kerry campaign.
Obama’s now former top staffer, Melissa Winter, remains, as the “traveling chief of staff” who will be on the road with Michelle Obama. Unlike Winter, Cutter will also carry the title of senior adviser to the campaign.
The Obama team is recognizing that Michelle Obama’s portfolio is growing — as is the need for a strategy to deal with potential controversy, such as the allegation, unfounded, that Michelle Obama made a speech where she used the word “whitey.” Cutter, a veteran Democratic operative, is a familiar face on TV political shows and will easily move into a high-profile Michelle Obama staff role.