Obama: David "Axe" Axelrod
David Axelrod has been at Obama’s side longer than anyone else in his inner circle. The two first met when Obama was just out of Harvard Law and coordinating a voter-registration drive in Illinois in 1992. (After years as a reporter for the Chicago Tribune, Axelrod had become a sought-after political consultant.) Over a decade later, "Axe" worked on Obama’s Senate campaign and his presidential bid — Larry Sabato of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia speculated that he was one of the key people pushing Obama to run. "Barack trusts David implicitly — they are genuine friends," said Robert Gibbs, Obama's former press secretary, now working on his reelection campaign. As Obama's senior adviser in the White House, Axelrod moved into the office next door to the Oval Office, and for three years remained the president's right-hand man, working behind the scenes to smooth out the wrinkles. But more recently, as the president got mired in the health care overhaul and a still-sluggish economy, he came out of the shadows to take on the role of defender-in-chief, flooding the press with appearances and interviews to lambast Obama's critics — so vociferously, in fact, that RNC chairman Reince Priebus concluded that "he's living in an alternative universe here." By early 2011, it was announced that Axelrod would be leaving the White House to focus on Obama's reelection campaign, headquartered in Chicago. "Our relationship is long enough and deep enough that I have no concern about whether I'll have influence," Axelrod told the Chicago Tribune.
Romney: Mrs. Romney
While it sounds oh-so-corny, time and time again, it's Ann who is offered up as Romney's numero uno right-hand woman. Beth Myers, Romney's 2008 campaign manager and again part of his inner circle this time around, said, "Ann is Mitt's life partner and is probably his closest and most trusted adviser ... her counsel is the counsel that he values most." Ann, speaking to Newsmax in 2007, agreed: "I weigh in so heavily, and he listens to my advice probably more than anyone else's." She even apparently gets a big say in who gets hired to the Romney team. She was ultimately the one who convinced Romney to take over the scandal-ridden 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, a prospect he claims to have initially rejected out of hand. "Ann is my most trusted advisor," he wrote in his 2004 book about his Olympics experience, Turnaround. "[H]er judgment on the widest range of business, organizational, and human resources matters was more sound than any other I know."