Jun 30, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Biden campaign staffs up from Obamaworld

Joe Biden stands in the foreground with Valerie Jarrett behind him in a 2016 photo

Biden and Jarrett at the White House in 2016. (Photo: Cheriss May/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Joe Biden is turning to a diverse, younger generation of Obama White House alums to fill high-level campaign positions as he gears up for the general election.

Driving the news: In the past few weeks, four former staffers who worked for Obama confidante Valerie Jarrett joined Biden’s campaign.

  • Karine Jean-Pierre, Julie Chavez Rodríguez, and Ashley Allison all joined within one week starting May 20, in senior adviser roles.
  • Yohannes Abraham joined the Biden campaign's transition team in late June.
  • All are women or men of color. All were longtime Obama White House staffers and worked with Jarrett in different capacities in her roles including senior adviser and directing public engagement and intergovernmental affairs.

Why it matters: Biden's campaign is seeking to elevate a younger generation of Democrats and add more diversity to its top ranks after facing early criticism over the homogeneity of Biden's brain trust.

  • Biden allies also see a benefit to bolstering ties to Obama and his inner circle, and they say it makes sense to add people with White House experience in senior roles.

The big picture: These hires are coming on board as Obama steps up his own public engagement for Biden.

  • Obama's first joint virtual fundraiser with his former vice president, held on June 23, brought in $7.6M from over 175,000 donors.
  • Biden and Obama have acknowledged that the coronavirus is forcing a restructuring of presidential campaigns and keeping them off the trail, even as President Trump is hosting in-person rallies.
  • But because of the pandemic — and since it's the beginning of summer, typically a slower time for politics — Biden has been able to devote more attention to building his campaign infrastructure and committees before the general election debates start in September.

Amid questions around Biden’s age and what that means for who he selects as a running mate, these hires show how the campaign is positioning a younger generation of former Obama aides to land the plane in November.

What they're saying: "It’s all hands on deck," Jarrett told Axios. "Frankly, I don’t know anyone in that orbit who hasn’t said, ‘Count me in, I’d like to be help in any way possible.’”

  • Obama hinted at this idea when he said in that fundraiser: "I am here to say help is on the way."
  • "We viewed ourselves as members of the team — not as free agents," Jarrett said. "That’s a real strength in all of the folks from my team. They each want to be a force for good."
  • Part of Biden's core campaign message is around his government competency. One Obama alum tells Axios: "By lifting up these particular individuals, he’s giving the rest of us a window into who’s going to help run the show in the White House, and I think that’s engendering more confidence in him."
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