Barack Obama is quietly planning to take over the Democratic National Committee and assemble a multistate team for the general election, the latest sign that he is putting rival Hillary Rodham Clinton and the nomination fight behind him.
Top Obama organizer Paul Tewes is in discussions to run the party, several Democratic officials said Tuesday.
Obama spokesman Bill Burton said no final decisions have been made on general election plans and that such decisions would be premature with Obama yet to clinch the nomination.
Tewes is one of the leading architects of Obama's success in the marathon Democratic primary race. He engineered Obama's critical victory in the Iowa caucuses on Jan. 3, which gave Obama the upper hand and Clinton was never able to fully overcome.
DNC executive director Tom McMahon and DNC political director Dave Boundy traveled to Chicago last week to meet with Tewes and other campaign officials to discuss merging efforts. The party officials have held similar meetings with Clinton campaign officials and last week got an agreement with both campaigns to start raising money that will benefit the eventual nominee.
The Obama campaign also is in discussions with staffers who will be dispatched to various swing states, but holding off on making announcements until Obama has won the nomination. Officials who spoke to The Associated Press about the discussions insisted on anonymity because the campaign wanted to keep the deliberations quiet.
Obama needs 2,026 delegates to clinch the nomination, and he moved within 100 of that goal after contests in Kentucky and Oregon Tuesday. Clinton was more than 250 delegates back.
The staffing decisions are a natural progression for Obama, who still is engaged in a primary campaign while Republican candidate John McCain has been free to prepare his general election team for months. Obama will have to hit the ground running to make up for lost time when, as expected, he dispatches Clinton.
Democratic and Republican nominees traditionally install loyalists at their party committees even though it is technically headed by its chairman — in this case Howard Dean, the former Vermont governor and a presidential candidate four years ago.
McCain has put his own team at the Republican National Committee to operate a Victory Fund Committee that is corralling top GOP donors and plotting strategy for the general election. McCain took the steps shortly after locking up the nomination after primary wins on March 4.
But Obama can't afford to move too quickly toward the general election, or he will risk alienating Clinton supporters who are already emotional about the likelihood of their chosen candidate's closely fought defeat.
There have been other steps toward the Democratic nomination. Obama has been campaigning in general election battleground states. Fundraisers for the two campaigns have held quiet discussions on working together in the fall campaign. And Obama's campaign reached out to former Clinton campaign manager Patti Solis Doyle about joining forces for the general election, although several other top Clinton staffers said they have not been contacted.