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Steny Hoyer’s T Word & Axelrod Fatigue

David Axelrod
David Axelrod. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Tara Palmeri
July 25, 2022

Allow me to begin by stating the obvious, a truth well-known by members of both parties in this town, by the media, and members of Congress: the White House is a very sensitive place. Despite Joe Biden’s experience, sangfroid, and decision to run on a healing message, the people around him operate with a competitiveness and message obsession. I should know, I’ve been on the other end of their nasty-grams. Unless your take is positive, one often hears from the comms shop, you’re out of touch with reality. Aides are desperate for some validation. But for all of their deep inhales and protestations that “Twitter isn’t real life,” (even as Ron Klain continues to be a prolific tweeter), they are constantly keeping score. And there are few pundits who piss them off more than David Axelrod. 

Axelrod and Biden obviously have history. The former helped navigate Barack Obama’s then-unlikely ascent in 2008, vanquishing Biden’s candidacy in the process, before working together in the team-of-rivals administration. As perhaps the most valuable aide to Obama, outside of Valerie Jarrett, Axelrod was able to exit early-ish, after helping run the successful re-election effort. He subsequently shaved his mustache and opened the glamorous and high-minded Institute of Politics at the University of Chicago while he dabbled in the promiscuous arts of economically-driven post-political life: He worked on a British election, founded a messaging shop, started a hot podcast (though not as hot as the other Obama alums), wrote a book, started another pod, and became a ubiquitous figure on CNN, where he was often one of the most cogent and sober critics of Trump.