Daley Is Obama's New Chief

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Updated at 12:15 p.m. on January 6.

President Obama has asked William M. Daley, the JPMorgan Chase executive and former U.S. Commerce Secretary, to serve as his chief of staff, and Daley has accepted, senior administration officials said today.

Obama will introduce Daley to the country at 2:30 p.m. as the face of his retooled senior staff.

Choosing Daley, a well-respected Washington figure, is a further signal that Obama ties the fate of his presidency to the fate of the economy and recognizes that his relationship with Congress will be much less helpful than a better rapport with the nation's employers and job creators.


Daley's resume, while carrying an impressive record of public service, has a record in the private sector that may help improve relations with the business community.

But his conservative personal mien and reputation for straight-shooting centrism could help the president broker deals with Republicans on legislation -- like raising the debt ceiling -- that are vital to simply keep the government operating.

"He commands a room and is a great negotiator, important skills in the next two years," said Jerry Crawford, a longtime Democratic fundraiser.

The consummation of a fairly short courtship belies the deeper relationship Obama has had with Daley, one that stretches back several years to Obama's first run for Senate, when Daley was a supporter, and then, during the early part of his presidential bid, when Obama relied on Daley as a chief conduit to Midwestern Democratic fundraisers and donors, as well as for advice about hiring campaign staff. The two have remained in touch infrequently, although Daley was regularly in touch with the numerous other White House officials he knew closely, from then-chief of staff Rahm Emanuel to senior advisers David Axelrod and Valerie Jarrett.

Daley currently serves as the chairman of the Midwest region for JPMorgan Chase, where he has worked since 2004, and sits on the firm's executive board. When Obama needed help soothing the jangled nerves of Wall Street in the wake of the Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation, his team turned to Daley.

(One White House adviser has also used Daley as a thermometer of sorts, seeking counsel before Obama would meet with JPMorgan's chief executive, Jamie Dimon, considered the most influential CEO in America.)

Previously, Daley spent three years at the telecom company SBC Communications and about nine months at Evercore Partners, the hedge fund run by Roger Altman, a former Clinton Treasury secretary whose name was floated as a potential replacement for Lawrence Summers at the National Economic Council. Daley's public service credentials come from his stint as chairman of Al Gore's presidential bid from June to December 2000, but more importantly from his three and a half years as Commerce secretary under Bill Clinton, where he served from 1997 to 2000.

While there, he was known as powerful free trade advocate who helped secure passage of the 1993 North American Free Trade Agreement.

He was not the union community's most favored cabinet member, but he struck many labor leaders as courteous and willing to listen. Still, AFL-CIO President John Sweeney blasted Daley's appointment as chairman of Al Gore's presidential campaign as a "blow to working families."

Daley is not a liberal. He joined the board of Third Way, a think tank staffed by ex-Clintonites, last year, saying at the time that "advancing moderate ideas, challenging orthodoxies, and building a big tent political movement that can attract an enduring majority. Their views are right for both campaigning and governing: pro-market, strong on security, and seeking common ground on culture issues."

The left's agenda, he said, "has not won the support of a majority of Americans -- and, based on that recognition, we must steer a more moderate course."

Aside from a knowledge of international finance and the American export sector, Daley's foreign policy acumen is limited, suggesting that Obama will rely more heavily on his national security adviser, Tom Donilon, to manage such complicated and sensitive transitions as the selection of a new secretary of Defense.

Where Emanuel rode herd on negotiations with Congress over what to do with the detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Daley will probably hover well above that level of granular engagement, freeing up, in a way, Obama Cabinet members to participate.

Daley's management style is "more formal," said Pete Giangreco, an Obama political adviser who has known Daley for years. "He is always able to listen to new arguments and make decisions without ego."

CORRECTION: The original version of this report misspelled Jamie Dimon's name.

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Marc Ambinder is an Atlantic contributing editor. He is also a senior contributor at Defense One, a contributing editor at GQ, and a regular contributor at The Week.

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