Two of President Biden’s top advisers, Mike Donilon and Jen O’Malley Dillon, will depart the White House and join his reelection campaign early next month as the president pivots to an all-hands-on-deck mode with former president Donald Trump quickly moving toward the Republican nomination.
O’Malley Dillon, currently Biden’s deputy chief of staff, will be the campaign chair, and Donilon, a senior adviser and longtime Biden aide, will serve as chief strategist. Both have served in the White House from the first day of Biden’s administration.
The moves come after several Democrats, including former president Barack Obama, have encouraged Biden to bolster his campaign apparatus and empower more top-level decision-makers at his campaign headquarters in Wilmington, Del.
O’Malley Dillon ran Biden’s successful general election campaign in 2020 and has been a principal architect of the president’s reelection while juggling other White House duties. Donilon is a longtime adviser who oversaw Biden’s message and strategy in the 2020 campaign and has replicated that role at the White House.
O’Malley Dillon’s move was first reported by the New York Times.
Julie Chavez Rodriguez, currently Biden’s campaign manager, will remain in that role. Donilon is expected to play a central role in the campaign’s messaging and paid media strategy, and O’Malley Dillon in the organizing and execution of the path to 270 electoral votes.
“Mike and Jen were essential members of the senior team that helped President Biden and Vice President Harris earn the most votes in American history in 2020, and we’re thrilled to have their leadership and strategic prowess focused full-time on sending them back to the White House for four more years,” said Chavez Rodriguez.
One Biden adviser, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters, said the move is being made now because the president is essentially heading into the general election. Trump is expected by most operatives in both parties to wrap up the Republican nomination shortly.
“This is a reflection that we are headed into the general” election, the adviser said. “This is a natural time to do this.”
Jim Messina, who was a top aide to Obama in the White House and in his 2012 reelection campaign, said the move makes political sense.
“This is a smart move by President Biden and Julie,” Messina said. “Having additional top political aides focus full-time on the reelect is exactly what you’d expect the White House to do as the general election matchup comes into focus.”
Still, many of the people at the White House who are involved in campaign strategy will remain in Washington, including top Biden advisers Anita Dunn, Steve Ricchetti, Ben LaBolt and Emmy Ruiz.
Because so many top strategists have been based at the White House, more than 100 miles from campaign headquarters in Delaware, important decisions about the 2024 reelection effort have often had to be run by the White House first. That has led to concerns that the campaign is moving too slowly.
The transition has been planned for some time, though the timing has been uncertain until now.
In December, Obama met with Biden at the White House, where the two discussed the structure of the campaign. Obama had raised concerns about keeping all of Biden’s closest aides at the White House.
In contrast, Obama in 2012 dispatched two of his top aides to Chicago to oversee his reelection campaign.