His job title is a little deceptive. Gibbs—who is officially in charge of Obama's message machine and responsible for the care and feeding of reporters—spends much of his time doing something else: he is Obama's traveling counselor and sometime court jester. A constant companion on the trail since Obama first ran for the U.S. Senate in 2004, he is an arch-loyalist. Gibbs's last presidential-campaign job didn't go nearly so well. He parted company with John Kerry in 2003, when the senator's presidential bid seemed about to collapse. Of course, Kerry went on to win the nomination. Gibbs joined up with an obscure Illinois legislator running a tough Senate race. He says he learned that a personal bond with the candidate was key: "I promised myself I would only do this again for somebody I had a really good relationship with." He figured his job would mean staying in Chicago and running the press shop. But Obama's first few months on the trail were stressful, and Gibbs was dispatched to lighten Obama's mood. On the campaign plane, the two men talk about missing their young kids. Sometimes, Gibbs briefs the candidate. At all times, he's ready to skirmish with the enemy.
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