Stephanie Cutter nearly lost her campaign job last year, over a couple of major missteps. Here’s the story of how she held on:
Frustrated, some inside Obama’s inner circle hatched a plan to push Cutter out of the picture. Messina gathered a small group together at a White Sox baseball game, where Larry Grisolano, Axelrod and Plouffe spent half the game talking about the Cutter question. They needed Pfeiffer to take over the communications staff after the convention in September. Then Cutter’s role would be confined to TV. The only remaining challenge was: who would tell Cutter of her effective demotion? Messina offered, but that was rejected as an impractical move that would rupture Chicago. Plouffe wanted to keep his distance. There had already been several stories about how few women there were in Obama’s inner circle, and nobody wanted to be involved in a story that could leak about the demotion of the only high-profile woman inside campaign headquarters.
When they consulted the president, he made it clear that he wanted Cutter to stay in some role. “Do what you want,” he said, “but she better not quit.”
Cutter’s guarantor was, in fact, the most high-profile woman of all in Obama’s inner circle: his wife. “Given Michelle Obama, she’s not going anywhere,” said one of the plotters. “The First Family feels very strongly that Stephanie is an asset. When things have gotten bad especially for Michelle, people go to who they trust. When anything goes bad in the East Wing world, she looks at all of her staff and says, “Go get me Cutter.”
None of this is surprising.