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The Manager Behind the Curtain: Profiling Joe Rospars

BY Nancy Scola | Wednesday, April 15 2009

Joe Rospars might seem like a household name in the households occupied by those of us who hang around these parts. But Google the name of the Obama campaign's new media director -- as Rospars himself claims never to do, in this solid new National Journal profile by Amy Harder -- and you turn up just 30,000 hits. Compare that to David Plouffe, who, despite never ascending to Karl Rove or Joe Trippi-like levels of campaign manager fame, still returns ten time the Google results as Rospars.

Rospars, by intention, remained a force largely behind the scenes during the presidential run, despite architecting the very way millions of Americans engaged with the Obama campaign. Writes Harder:

Every campaign needs a "cast of characters" supporters can connect to, Rospars says. Obama, Michelle Obama and Joe Biden starred. [Sam] Graham-Felsen spoke to supporters every day through his blog. Some supporters' e-mail inboxes were filled with more messages from Plouffe than from their own families. But Rospars was most instrumental by being least overtly involved. His voice was loudest when the voices of others were heard. He's the invisible host responsible for making conversation easy.

Despite the novelty of being a new media guru, Rospars did many of the very traditional things a good manager does: build a exceptional team, set a clear and strong vision, and then fight for the resources necessary to get the job done.

The profile also provides some insights into why Rospars didn't follow many of his campaign colleagues to the White House:

Rospars admits to being only "vaguely interested in how to make government more transparent. It's not where my heart and passion is." But he's still rooting for the conversation between Obama and his supporters -- a conversation Rospars himself helped enable -- to continue. "I have a somewhat personal emotional investment in the relationship," Rospars said. His firm advises Organizing for America and Rospars wants to help cultivate the network, albeit not to the extent that he did during the campaign. "The relationships didn't end on Election Day," Rospars said. "We built those relationships in a way that it was never really about Election Day or a candidate. It was about a common sense of purpose and what the people wanted the country to be."

The full profile is well worth a read, and you can find it here. Also check out Ari Melber's own reflections on the piece and its subject.