David M. Axelrod life and biography

David M. Axelrod picture, image, poster

David M. Axelrod biography

Date of birth : 1955-02-22
Date of death : -
Birthplace : Chicago, Illinois, USA
Nationality : American
Category : Politics
Last modified : 2010-07-05
Credited as : Politician, Senior Advisor to the President, member of Obama administration

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David M. Axelrod (born February 22, 1955) is an American political consultant based in Chicago, Illinois. He is best known as a top political advisor to President Barack Obama, first in Obama's 2004 campaign for the U.S. Senate in Illinois and later as chief strategist for Obama's 2008 presidential campaign. Following the 2008 election, he was appointed as Senior Advisor to President Obama.

Axelrod is the founder of AKP&D Message and Media, was a political writer for the Chicago Tribune, and operated ASK Public Strategies, now called ASGK Public Strategies. He is also a supporter of Cook County Commissioner Forrest Claypool, who helped Axelrod begin his firm (under the name Axelrod and Associates).


As the chief political and media strategist to Barack Obama, David Axelrod has received widespread credit for the rapid political rise of the 2008 Democratic presidential nominee. Axelrod has known Obama, a U.S. senator from Illinois looking to become the first African-American president, longer than anyone else in the candidate's inner circle. Axelrod is "part idealist, part hard muscle," Ben Wallace-Wells wrote in the New York Times magazine.

Axelrod was born into a middle class Jewish family on New York's Lower East Side. As a five-year-old he watched John F. Kennedy's rise to the presidency. "I was so taken by the scene and by him and what seemed so important and so magical. That's what really sort of began to fire my interest in politics and in news," Axelrod told the New York Daily News. When he was 13, Axelrod distributed campaign literature during Robert F. Kennedy's brief run for the White House.

Axelrod's mother was a journalist for the left-oriented 1940s newspaper PM. His father was a psychologist. His parents divorced when he was eight. His father committed suicide in May of 1974, while Axelrod was in college. In a guest editorial written for his former employer, the Chicago Tribune, Axelrod, according to the London Guardian, admitted that "it has taken me more than 30 years to say out loud that the man I most loved and admired took his life."

After graduating from New York's Stuyvesant High School and from the University of Chicago, where he studied political science, Axelrod worked for the Chicago Tribune for eight years beginning in 1977, and rose from intern to City Hall bureau chief. He left in 1984 to work for Paul Simon during the Illinois congressman's successful run for U.S. Senate. He founded a political consultancy, which served the likes of Chicago mayors Harold Washington and Richard M. Daley, and senators John Edwards and Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Saw Potential in Obama

Obama and Axelrod met through a mutual friend in Chicago while Obama, just out of Harvard Law School, was conducting a voter registration drive in 1993. Obama's run for the Senate in 2004---he was a state senator at the time---intrigued the consultant. "There was not an African-American in the U.S. Senate, and there were very few people of his caliber. He was not a front-runner at that point. He was quite the underdog. But I told him I wanted to work with him," Axelrod told the Los Angeles Times. Obama won the primary and the election, and in between generated headlines as the keynote speaker at the Democratic National Convention.

Axelrod, who helped assemble Obama's election team, oversees the campaign's advertising and coordinates activities with polling experts. He is at Obama's side frequently during campaign trips, and meets frequently with reporters. "Axelrod is described as Obama's answer to Karl Rove and the most powerful political consultant not on a coast," Maria L. La Ganga wrote in the Los Angeles Times. Rove, a political consultant credited with getting many Republicans elected, rose to deputy chief of staff in the George W. Bush administration.

'Slumming in the Wards'

"Axelrod has the political operative's BlackBerried, wearied demeanor, at once somewhat more and somewhat less than fully awake. His conversations are staccato, 90-second affairs, affirmations, and advice," wrote Wallace-Wells, who added that Axelrod "is lumbering, sardonic, and self-deprecating, and he still has the old, Chicago street-fighter belief that you can see what matters about politics most clearly when you're slumming in the wards."

Most of Axelrod's clients are urban, progressive Democrats. When Obama surged past Clinton and secured the presidential nomination, Axelrod was credited for Obama's message of promising change. "The keeper of that message is David Axelrod," La Ganga wrote.

Axelrod became a target when Republican John McCain surged in the polls after naming Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his vice-presidential running mate. Mark Cunningham in the New York Post even suggested that Axelrod is overmatched. "Axelrod specializes in urban politics. He's run a bunch of mayoral races (usually in cities with lots of blacks), plus contests in true-blue states like Massachusetts and New York," Cunningham wrote. "And his favorite guns may well misfire now."

Honored for Epilspsy-Related Work

Axelrod's wife, the former Susan Landau, founded Citizens United for Research in Epilepsy (CURE). David Axelrod serves on its advisory board, and received an award from the organization for fundraising on its behalf. The Axelrods' daughter Lauren, one of three children, lives in a group home after a lifetime of seizures damaged her brain. "That is Axelson's softer side," La Ganga wrote. "In politics, he can have a harder edge."

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