26. Julius Genachowski
Co-founder and managing director, Rock Creek Ventures
Obama has advisers he trusts deeply (Valerie Jarrett) and ambassadors to the D.C. establishment (Tom Daschle), but precious few people who overlap in these sets. That’s why he needs Harvard Law Review pal and former FCC staffer Genachowski, who’s been a key adviser and fund-raiser since the start of Obama’s political career. It’s widely assumed that Obama will name his tech-savvy friend, who was also a top exec at Barry Diller’s Internet company, to be chairman of the FCC, or to the newly created cabinet position of chief technology officer.
27. Joel Benenson
Founding partner, Benenson Strategy Group
Not that many folks in Washington had heard of the New York-based pollster before the Obama campaign. (Like Axelrod, he used to be a daily newspaper reporter.) But he edged aside a crowded internal group to become a regular presence in debate prep and strategy sessions. Despite Obama’s loud protestations that he pays little attention to polls, Benenson will remain in Axelrod’s tightest circle.
28. Susan Rice
Senior foreign policy adviser, Obama campaign
She latched onto the campaign early--and took to the airwaves to defend it often. A Rhodes Scholar, former State Department hand, and soft-power evangelist, she opposed the Iraq war--a stance that alienated her from many of her old comrades in the Clinton administration. Because of the longevity of her relationship with Obama, early money had her trodding the path beaten by another African American woman named Rice to national security adviser. But some question whether she’s too ideological to play the role of honest policy broker--a concern that might steer Obama toward placing her in a top job at the State Department instead.
29. Penny Pritzker
Chair, Classic Residence by Hyatt
Every president gets one freebie cabinet appointment to install a best pal. Bush stuck Don Evans at Commerce. Chatter has the Hyatt Hotel heiress filling that role. She was an early Obama patron--causing some of his old Chicago rivals to portray him as a puppet of the Jews. This race, Obama’s national finance chair did her own version of the great schlep, vouching for him with skeptical bubbes and zeides.
30. Phil Griffin
He’s the man who unleashed Olbermann and Maddow--and made MSNBC the left’s answer to Fox. It’s been ratings gold, but the Obama administration poses a slew of knotty dilemmas: Will Olbermann and Maddow defend the administration against its critics? Or will they fulminate when it inevitably disappoints Obama’s lefty fans? By all accounts Griffin, recently described as a “hippie,” isn’t exactly a disciplinarian. Olbermann once declared, “Phil thinks he’s my boss.”
THE BUDDY LIST
Founder and CEO, Parking Spot
Barack’s BFF shares the same sports obsession (basketball), the same neighborhood (Hyde Park), and the same backyard BBQ pal (Valerie Jarrett). While Nesbitt, Obama’s campaign treasurer, delivered the bucks, his wife, Anita Blanchard, who is Michelle’s obstetrician, delivered the kids.
Dr. Eric Whitaker
Executive vice president at the University of Chicago Medical Center
Yet another intimate from Obama’s days at Harvard, from which the good doctor earned a degree in public health. A frequent trail traveler, Whitaker is said to be adept at reading Obama. Think of him as an early warning system for Barack’s bad moods.