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Power Players of Election 2012

Key advisers, surrogates, and deep-pocketed donors that are shaping the race for the White House

Power Players of Election 2012

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

Campaign manager for President Obama's 2012 re-election campaign and former White House Deputy Chief of Staff from 2009 to 2011. White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer calls Messina (right) "the most powerful person in Washington that you haven't heard of."

Joe Biden

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Joe Biden

Following in the vice-president-as-attack-dog tradition, Biden has thrown himself into his surrogate role, whipping up crowds with populist fighting talk about standing up for the middle class against the greedy rich. "It's a choice, a clear choice, a choice between a system that's rigged and a system that's fair," is a typical line. Deploying Biden carries its risks, as there's always the chance he'll pop off unpredictably, as when he "got out over his skis" on gay marriage.

Tim Pawlenty

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Tim Pawlenty

National co-chair of Mitt Romney's presidential campaign and arguably his top surrogate. Despite having battled Romney for the GOP nomination, the former Minnesota governor has built a rep as a good soldier. "Pawlenty basically does whatever the campaign requests, no questions asked," a Romney adviser told National Review. "That’s pretty rare in presidential politics, especially among politicians of his standing."

Jeffrey Katzenberg

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Jeffrey Katzenberg

American film producer and CEO of DreamWorks Animation with an estimated worth of $800 million, Katzenberg has chipped in $2 million to help out the superPAC supporting President Obama. He co-hosted of Obama's fundraiser at George Clooney, which raised nearly $15 million, making it the most lucrative presidential fundraiser ever. In the 2008 campaign cycle, he was the second highest individual donor, always giving to Democrats. "You don't need to work at the level of Jeffrey Katzenberg's energy and commitment to these causes and issues, unless you really believe in them," a Hollywood activist/fundraiser told NPR. "It's beyond what a businessperson does."

Bill Burton

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Bill Burton

Senior strategist at pro-Obama super PAC Priorities USA.  Former national press secretary to Obama's 2008 campaign and White House deputy press secretary.

Karl Rove

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Karl Rove

The New Republic calls him "the dominant private citizen in the Republican Party."  Formerly, senior advisor and Deputy Chief of Staff to President George W. Bush, the loved-and-hated political consultant and strategist is a prime force behind American Crossroads, the largest super PAC on the right and its shadowy sibling the advocacy organization Crossroads GPS, which together may spend up to $250 million on the 2012 election. Rove is one of the savviest navigators of the new landscape shaped by the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision exampting corporations and unions from campaign finance limits. "Rove had no role in creating this new legal environment," writes political writer Walter Shapiro. "But if Rove and his allies did not invent it, they certainly were adroit at exploiting it."

Charles and David Koch

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Charles and David Koch

The billionaire industrialists whose family business, Koch Industries, is the second largest privately owned company in the United States, have kicked in more than a hundred million dollars to right-wing causes over the past four decades. They expanded their political activities after Barack Obama was elected president and poured money into Tea Party groups, leading one journalist to call them "the billionaires behind the hate." Their network of groups is expected to spend roughly $400 million in the 2012 election cycle. "The Koch brothers’ political operation has increasingly come to resemble its own political party," Politico recently noted.

Sheldon and Miriam Adelson

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Sheldon and Miriam Adelson

The billionaire casino mogul, a fervent Zionist and union-hater, and his wife recently announced they would donate $10 million to the Koch brothers' efforts to defeat President Obama. They had already given $10 million to the Romney-supporting Super PAC Restore Our Future and $5 million each to two organizations promoting House Republicans. During the GOP presidential primary, Adelson and family members gave $21 million to a super PAC backing Newt Gingrich. Sources close to Adelson tell CBS that his donations will continue.

Michelle Obama

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Michelle Obama

President Obama's "top surrogate" has a busy schedule these days, speaking at events and touting her husband's accomplishments. She tends to stay away from "hot issues," like abortion and contraception, focusing instead on veterans welfare and childhood obesity. Seven out of 10 Americans have favorable views of her. "Anytime she’s out there is helpful," top Obama adviser David Axelrod told the Washington Post. “We want her out there as much as we can get her time.”

Ann Romney

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Ann Romney

Mitt Romney's wife has taken a leading role in his campaign over the past 6 months. She's been called his "secret weapon" on the trail because of her ability, not shared by him, to connect with voters, especially women. Diagnosed with MS in 1998, she's both tough and likable. "She’s a lioness, very competitive and determined," Alex Castellanos, an adviser to the Romney 2008 campaign, told ABC. "She’s an all-in kind of person."

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