Elizabeth Alexander will take a brief leave of absence from her role as First Lady Jill Biden’s communications director to help stand up the messaging arm of President Joe Biden’s re-election campaign, advisers tell NBC News.
The move speaks to how Biden’s campaign is still taking shape, one week after he announced he would seek another term. The campaign announced only two staff hires on its first day: campaign manager Julie Chavez Rodriguez and principal deputy campaign manager Quentin Fulks.
Fulks tweeted that Monday was his first day on the job, while Rodriguez, currently director of Intergovernmental Affairs, starts in the campaign role full time May 15. Kevin Munoz, a former White House spokesperson, has been also working for the campaign full-time since Tuesday’s launch.
Alexander’s temporary move to the political side starting Tuesday reflects a desire to build out an important part of the early campaign team in earnest.
Among the universe of staff that have spent years working for the Bidens, Alexander is among the longest-tenured, having served in a variety of roles. She was a spokesperson for Biden in his Senate office and during the first term of his vice presidency. After working for the Justice Department and then in the private sector, Alexander joined the 2020 Biden campaign as a senior adviser for communications and became Jill Biden’s communications director on day one of the administration.
“Since 2006, Elizabeth has been a steadfast advisor to President Biden and the first lady. Her deep communications knowledge and expertise will serve the campaign well — helping stand up a campaign communication team that will reach voters where they are across all forms of media, while staying true to who Joe Biden is,” Anita Dunn, a Biden adviser, said in a statement.
“There’s nobody better at establishing roles, responsibility and process than Elizabeth,” said Anthony Bernal, a senior adviser to the first lady and longtime adviser to both Bidens. “She has a really unique perspective to know how to represent both of their interests.”
Building out the campaign’s communications team is critical even at this early stage. White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre had to sidestep questions — again — at her daily briefing Monday that she said veered into political matters, citing a legal restriction on answering those questions so from her taxpayer-funded position.
Jay Carney, who worked with Alexander in Biden’s vice presidential office and later served as White House press secretary during President Obama’s reelection campaign, said finding the right personnel on the campaign side to work with the existing White House communications team is critical, given the legal restrictions on the latter engaging in politics.
Carney, who is now a senior executive at Airbnb, recalled how, when Obama traveled for campaign events, he would often brief reporters alongside a campaign spokesperson to ensure both policy and political questions could be addressed.
“[Alexander] is smart, strategic, she’s done this a bunch in different capacities, and above all she has the trust of both the president and first lady,” Carney said. “That makes it obvious for her to be the person who does this.”