- The Wall Street Journal reports that Jen Palmieri, the current White House communications director, will leave her post in the spring to become communications director on Hillary Clinton's nascent presidential campaign.
- This comes after reports that top White House advisor John Podesta will leave his post to chair Clinton's campaign.
- There's a message in these moves: the Democratic establishment is uniting behind Clinton, and doing so early.
- At this point, we know much more about who Clinton's top political staffers will be than who her top policy staffers will be.
It's Clinton, not Biden, who's absorbing the Obama White House's top operatives
In addition to Palmieri and Podesta, Joel Benenson, Obama's top pollster, is expected to be part of the Clinton campaign as well. You expect to see this kind of top White House talent making early moves towards a campaign when it's the vice president gearing up for a run. But it's Clinton, not Biden, who looks to be absorbing the many of the key players in Obamaworld.
This speaks to Clinton's weird and enviable position: she's running with the traditional advantages of the vice president — staffing talent, name recognition, national donor network, etc — but she isn't as closely tied to Obama's record as Biden would be. She can run as Obama's anointed successor while retaining the space to criticize.
The Democratic Party is united
The 2008 Democratic primary was rough (remember the PUMAs?), in part because it came in a period when Democratic Party really had been deeply divided on key questions of foreign policy. But the 2016 Democratic Party is unusually unified.
As Matt Yglesias wrote back in June, Clinton's overwhelming frontrunner status is a function of that unity. There's no obvious challenger for dissatisfied Democrats to flock to because there's no obvious issue that can power an insurgent campaign the way Iraq powered Obama's 2008 campaign.
Clinton's political team is coming into focus. Her policy team is still a mystery.
In addition to Palmieri and Podesta, the New York Times names a number of other political strategists who appear likely to assume key roles in Clinton's campaign:
Brian Fallon, currently at the Justice Department, is expected to potentially handle rapid response, and Karen Finney, a longtime Democratic operative and MSNBC regular, could serve as a press secretary.
Tapping Ms. Palmieri rounds out a team of senior advisers who could lead Clinton's campaign, including Joel Benenson and Jim Margolis who both worked on President Obama's presidential campaigns. Robby Mook, who managed Terry McAuliffe's successful campaign for governor of Virginia, is expected to be campaign manager.
That's a murderer's row of communication staffers, pollsters, and campaign strategists. But it's not clear yet who will serve as Clinton's top policy staffers. Which is part of why it's hard to say much about what Clinton's agenda will look like. There look to be hints if you stare for very long at the policy proposals being released by longtime policy allies of the Clinton's, but her campaign is staffing up its political side well in advance of its policy side.