"Because she is Julianna, there is nothing that people don't want to do for Julianna," Forester says. "She has never sought the limelight. Trade Representative Ron Kirk. He says that when the presidential transition team learned Smoot was interested in working at the trade office, he was told: "If you don't take her, you're a fool."
Christine Forester, a San Diego businesswoman who got to know Smoot when both were part of Obama's money raising juggernaut in the 2008 campaign, said Smoot is persuasive.
"There were times when the money tree wasn't the strongest, but it always came back," says Ami Copeland, who worked with Smoot during the campaign and credits her with keeping both the plant and the Obama money operation healthy.
Smoot is taking over the Social Office from Desiree Rogers, a fashion forward Chicago confidante of the Obamas who resigned after little more than a year in the job. kids on the White House lawn.
"She'd place the call, get the person on the phone for you and just make you feel good about it," says former Democratic Sen. Tom Daschle of South Nike Air Max Uptempo Zoom
White House aides say the transition from fashionista to fundraiser portends no big changes in White House guest lists or the general direction of the social operation. Fourteen months into the Obama presidency, the traditional social events from Easter Egg Roll to Governor's Ball have all been road tested at least once.
By all accounts, she's girl next door nice, disarming, fun, creative. But also hyperorganized, direct, driven, competitive. And, yes, she can even cuss when necessary, the sting softened by her Southern accent.
Smoot already had an eye popping achievement by then. As finance director for the Obama campaign her first presidential race she brought in nearly $750 million, a record amount that surpassed the combined total for both major party candidates four years earlier. Early on, the impressive cash haul marked Obama, a first term senator, as a serious contender and in later stages it provided the cash to let him do pretty much whatever he wanted.
Next to Smoot's desk throughout the campaign was a money tree a potted plant with a braided trunk that is associated with financial good fortune.
the fundraising front.
"With one of everything under our belt, it's much more a matter of tweaking and expanding and trying to get as many different types of people in here as possible," said Sher. "And no, this has nothing to do with donors."
Smoot's in box already is full. Beyond the usual events on the calendar, there's a May 19 state dinner for Mexico, sure to be closely watched after all the theatrics over the gate crashers who penetrated the Obamas' first state dinner, in November for the Indian prime minister.
Smoot has declined interview requests since the announcement Feb. 27 that she was moving to the Social Office. But Penny Pritzker, a Chicago business executive who developed a close friendship with Smoot when Pritzker was national finance chief of the Obama campaign, said in an interview that Smoot was "into it, and her competitive juices are flowing to do a good job."
But Meredith McGehee, policy director of the nonprofit Campaign Legal Center, said Smoot's background calls Nike Vapormax Flyknit Pink for extra attention to who scores invitations to White House events.
"She's a leader by supporting the people around her," Copeland said. He added: "The one thing she does not tolerate is inaction. You know when you haven't fulfilled a commitment."
Her tenure was marred, though, by the big blowup over the party crashers at the Obamas' first state dinner and a general sense that she acted too much like a celebrity and not enough like a staff member.
Equally important, she has the trust of the first lady and the president, who calls her "Smoot."
"It does mean she will receive scrutiny, well deserved scrutiny," said McGehee. "She is at the nexus between donors and access."
Susan Sher, chief of staff to Michelle Obama, says Smoot was selected for her organizational abilities and gracious manner, not her history of pulling in big money for Democrats.
It was during the campaign that Smoot earned the confidence of the Obamas, to whom Smoot didn't flinch from delivered both good news and bad on Adidas Prophere Thoughts
Smoot comes across as the anti diva. Fashion doesn't consume her. No one expects her to turn up in Vogue magazine, as Rogers did early on. Or to pull up a seat at a state dinner, as did Rogers. Or to have a front row seat during New York fashion week, as did Rogers. Nike Uptempo Chi For Sale
It's an apt skill set for social secretary, a job that requires a multitasker who can juggle planning for hundreds of occasions ranging from glitzy state dinners to teas for two, mediate all the elbows thrown in pursuit of coveted White House invites, and strike the right notes for events with cultural, political, legislative and international overtones.
In choosing Smoot to be the new overlord of the White House social scene her first day is Monday the Obamas have selected someone with an enviable list of not on the resume qualities that have everything to do with her track record as one of the best fundraisers on the planet.
Plenty of other Democrats, too, owe their campaign millions to Smoot's abilities. She steered fundraising for Democratic Senate candidates in 2006, raising a record sum.
Think J. Crew, not Comme des Garcons.
"She could take a situation where everyone was feeling an enormous amount of stress and anxiety, and with a very gentle touch, make everyone relax," says Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser to Obama who got to know Smoot during the campaign.
Of all the gushy things that fans of Julianna Smoot have to say about the Obamas' new social secretary, the most telling may be that she could make even "the ask" seem fun.
Dakota, whose losing re election campaign in 2004 pulled in millions with Smoot as fundraiser. "Pretty soon you'd be laughing."
"She told me she was even thinking about different ideas as she was showering in the morning," Pritzker said. This was just days after the change was announced.
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