Have US presidents historically used staff from their campaign or people that explicitly campaigned for them in their cabinet staff?

For example, Steve Bannon, Donald Trump's campaign CEO, was appointed to a position, as was the head of the Republican National Committee. Rudy Giuliani, who campaigned for Trump, hasn't been appointed to a position but has been speculated for several positions. Chris Christie, who was also a political ally during the campaign, was originally set to lead his transition team and possibly receive an appointment as well, but that was changed after some of his former staff were convicted in a scandal.

I don't know enough about the transitions to other presidents. Are these types of political appointments common for a US President? I would expect a president to use people from his or her own party, but am not sure if it's common to actually use people from the candidate's campaign.

  • 2
    The ideal is someone with relevant domain knowledge/skills/credentials whom the President can trust and work well with. I don't know how closely past Presidents have adhered to that ideal.
    – Bobson
    Nov 16, 2016 at 17:57
  • @bobson I completely agree--I think most people would. I've always assumed that's what happened, and never really considered how a president-elect might select staff members. What I'm wondering is if that is what historically happens. Nov 16, 2016 at 18:20
  • 2
    Another thought: It may be worth clarifying between appointments to the president-elect's transition team, and appointments to the actual Cabinet (which need to be confirmed by the Senate). Although nominees who weren't approved might be applicable.
    – Bobson
    Nov 16, 2016 at 18:54
  • 1
    I recommend that you edit the question to remove "and political allies". You sound to be asking specifically about campaign staff. My first thought, quite frankly, after reading the question was "Who would reasonably expect a Present to appoint political enemies to his Cabinet"
    – Michael J.
    Nov 16, 2016 at 19:06
  • @MichaelJ. Good point. I've edited the title. You are right that I was specifically asking about people involved in the president elect's campaign. Nov 18, 2016 at 12:28

2 Answers 2


Some examples from Barack Obama's 2008 campaign staff:

  • David Axelrod and David Plouffle as Senior Advisors to the President
  • Robert Gibbs as Press Secretary
  • Eric Holder as Attorney General
  • Susan E. Rice as Ambassador to the United Nations
  • Austan Goolsbee on the Council of Economic Advisors
  • Arne Duncan as Secretary of Education

Political allies who endorsed Obama after the primaries:

  • Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State
  • Rahm Emanuel as Chief of Staff

Axelrod and Plouffle are perhaps closest to Steve Bannon in terms of roles.

Rahm Emanuel was a Democrat party leader before being named as Chief of Staff, with some parallels with Reince Priebus.

Hillary Clinton was a former opponent who endorsed Obama after losing in the primaries, much as Chris Christie lost to Donald Trump.

Eric Holder, Susan E. Rice, Austan Goolsbee, and Arne Duncan are probable the closest to Rudy Giuliani.

An older parallel to Giuliani would be Colin Powell from George W. Bush's 2000 campaign. Instead of going for the most natural post of Secretary of Defense (Giuliani is most obviously qualified to be Attorney General or possibly Secretary of Homeland Security), he became Secretary of State.

There are fewer resources for finding campaign members of older races, but George Stephanopolous moved from the 1992 Clinton campaign into the administration as Director of Communications and then Senior Advisor to the President.


Generally speaking, the president is going to choose, as his top advisors and top managers to implement his overall agenda, people who support his/her (not yet) overall agenda.

Political allies and staff are usually people on the "same team" who are also familiar with what the President wants to accomplish. Many of them have also proven themselves to a certain extent, as reliable advocates, proxies, and spokespeople during the election campaigns.

For certain positions that are, ideally, more objective and less political in administration of policies, you will often see non-partisan, non-political or even appointments that cross political lines.

It's not at all unusual for the top advisors in a campaign to take on roles as top advisors in an administration. It's more the norm than the exception.

President Lincoln is often cited as a very rare exception because his cabinet was heavily populated with political adversaries.

Abraham Lincoln's Cabinet Members - Biography.com

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .