6. Larry Summers
Managing director, D.E. Shaw & Co.
The best economic mind in the party, his credibility with the Democratic base has grown in recent months. His must-read columns in the Financial Times have evinced a leftward turn in his thinking. And, unlike Rubin, the financial meltdown actually reflects well upon his last tour in Washington. If Obama doesn’t send him back to Treasury--that job could also go to his protégé, Tim Geithner--he might be called upon to replace Bernanke at the Fed in 2010.
7. General David Petraeus
Commander, U.S. Central Command
Petraeus is a master politician--hence the buzz about him running for the White House someday. For the past few months, he has been back-channeling to Obama, building a working relationship. It helps that their positions on both Afghanistan and Iraq have begun to converge. The surge’s success has bolstered Petraeus’s cred, so Obama will want the general’s blessing for his strategy--or, at least, try to avoid a public confrontation with him. An antagonistic relationship would propel Petraeus to the top of the GOP’s wish list for 2012.
8. Joe Biden
Biden has eschewed the fool’s errands that doom most vice presidents: Reinventing government! Regulatory reform! He has given himself a Cheney-size portfolio and wants to have the president’s ear on everything. His most obvious area of interest will be foreign policy, where his views run more hawkish than Obama’s. An interesting first test of Biden’s clout: Can he find jobs for like-minded Democratic diplomats like Richard Holbrooke and Dennis Ross?
9. Robert Gibbs
Communications director, Obama campaign
If the press corps doesn’t exactly love the guy, who cares? He has run a leakproof ship, won overwhelmingly positive coverage of his candidate, and proved a steely spinmeister on television. As press secretary, he should have Karen Hughes-like stature in the White House, as communications director or senior counselor. Gibbs joined up with Obama back in 2004, well before the hype began, and the laconic Southerner is famously fearless when dispensing advice to his boss.
10. David Plouffe
Manager, Obama campaign
Obamaland is a hegemonic power--it devours every institution it cannot control. Plouffe is the political geek who built it from scratch, with his savant-like knowledge of demographics and electoral rules. Now that Obama controls the lever of government, that campaign apparatus isn’t going anywhere. He could become the DNC’s new executive director--or run the White House political operation. Whether he’s at 1600 or not, count on Plouffe to bolster the administration’s legislative agenda by using Obama’s massive donor base to reward friendly congressmen.