Rouse appointment enhances Daschle’s position

By A. James Memmott

October 4, 2010 at 7:53am

The naming of Peter M. Rouse as Barack Obama’s interim chief of staff shows that the Tom Daschle connection to the White House remains strong even though Daschle isn’t an official member of the team.

Rouse, who had been serving as a senior adviser to the president, has known Daschle since 1973 when they were both aides to then Sen. James Abourezk, a South Dakota Democrat.

The pair teamed up again in 1986 when Daschle, then a member of Congress from South Dakota, decided to run for the Senate.

During the campaign, Rouse ran Daschle’s House office. Upon Daschle’s victory, Rouse became his chief of staff.

As Daschle became more powerful in the Senate, serving as minority leader and majority leader, Rouse acquired more behind-scenes-influence and became known as the “101st senator.”

After Daschle lost a re-election bid in 2004, Rouse, who is now 64, contemplated leaving government work, according to reports. Instead, he became chief of staff for Obama, then a newly elected senator from Illinois.

As Obama began to plan a run for the presidency, Rouse became a key member of his campaign team, recruiting several former Daschle staffers to join the effort.

Steve Hildebrand, who had managed Daschle’s 2004 campaign and directed a Daschle political action committee, became Obama’s deputy national campaign director.

Dan Pfeiffer, who had served in Daschle’s Senate office under Rouse, was deputy communications director for the Obama campaign.

Julianna Smoot, who had raised $21 for Daschle’s 2004 campaign, became the head of fund raising for the Obama presidential campaign.

Hildebrand is now a political consultant, but Pfeiffer stayed on with Obama as White House communications director. Smoot is White House social secretary.

Rouse also helped convince Daschle to endorse Obama for president early in 2007 when the freshman senator was very much a long shot.

After Obama’s victory, Daschle was nominated to become secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. However, he withdrew his name because of tax problems.

Daschle had been mentioned as a possible replacement for Rahm Emanuel who resigned Friday as chief of staff so he could plan a run for mayor of Chicago.

However, Daschle, who is a senior policy advisor to DLA Piper, a global law firm, said he wasn’t interested.

Earlier speculation that Rouse would take over for Emanuel prompted this Twitter message from former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin:

“Alaska’s Pete Rouse (@ least he claims to be ‘Alaska’) finally comes out of the shadows; Obama looks to appt him COS;strange doings in the WH”

Palin’s suspicions to the contrary, Rouse has a connection to Alaska that goes back to 1915 when his mother’s parents, immigrants from Japan who had come to the United States a few years earlier, settled in Alaska.

According to the Anchorage Daily News, Rouse’s mother, who spoke no English when she entered school as a young girl, went on to become the valedictorian of her class at Anchorage High School. (She later earned a Ph.D. from Yale University.)

Rouse grew up in Connecticut and graduated from Colby College in Maine. He also has masters degrees from Harvard University and the London School of Economics.

From 1979 to 1983, he left Washington for Alaska to serve as chief of staff for Lt. Gov. Terry Miller, a Republican. Though he returned to Washington in 1983, Rouse maintained his voter registration in Alaska at least through November 2008 when he voted absentee.

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