WASHINGTON - David Plouffe, who led Barack Obama's winning campaign for the White House, is to play a larger role as outside adviser to the president as reeling Democrats try to rally in this important election year.
Allies of the White House cast the move as less about the Democrats' stunning Massachusetts election defeat and more about the fact the election year is heating up and Plouffe has more free time following the publication of his campaign memoir late last year. Still, the timing is sure to stoke speculation the White House is seeking to shore up its political operation.
Plouffe's primary job will be to devise, coordinate and analyze strategies for the House, Senate and governor's races in November, according to an administration official.
Plouffe is set to have a larger imprint, operating through the Democratic National Committee and Organizing for America, Obama's political organization.
Obama has bemoaned a public sense of detachment from what he's been trying to accomplish, and now Senate Democrats have lost the 60-vote bloc they need to overcome Republican opposition to his health care plan.
That was underscored by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who said last week the Massachusetts special election sent Democrats a message: "We have to focus on jobs, the economy and middle-class families like a laser."
The administration official said Plouffe always was going to play a larger role at some point after finishing his campaign book, but a change in the political environment accelerated the timetable.
Most governor's seats, more than one-third of the Senate, all 435 House districts and state legislatures will be on the ballot this year. Democrats must protect far more seats than Republicans, with a political environment not in their favor. The outcomes could significantly affect Obama's agenda.