JERUSALEM — |PoliticoBarack Obama doesn’t travel light.
Halfway around the world, the Obama campaign machine appears as sprawling and seamless as it is on its home turf. As the presumptive Democratic nominee tours five countries in five days, he brings an entourage that would make a pop star envious.
A dozen top foreign policy advisers are either traveling with Obama or doing groundwork ahead of his arrival in each country. This group is supplemented by his usual contingent of almost a dozen traveling aides, including chief campaign strategist David Axelrod and communications director Robert Gibbs, and too many advance staff to count. With layers of Secret Service agents, they zipped through Amman Tuesday in a motorcade of 20 vehicles.
The mix of policy and political advisers reflects the split dimension of the senator’s tour through Europe and the Middle East: Even as his closest aides insist that the trip is a fact-finding and relationship-building mission, Obama’s every step is being intricately managed to maximize political advantage.
From the saturated media coverage to the one-on-one meetings with heads of state, the trip already had a White House feel. The scope of the traveling staff simply adds to an aura of a president-in-waiting. On Tuesday, aides attempted to invoke White House rules and traditions by requiring reporters to withhold the names of senior advisers who brief the press. But they were reminded twice by reporters that they were not in the White House and that Obama was not the president.
The makeup of his retinue also provides a window into Obama’s leadership style, reflecting a tendency, Democratic political strategists said, to be inclusive and substantive.
“Obama listens to many voices and takes advice and counsel from many experts, not a small insular circle as we have seen these last eight years,” said Peter Fenn, a Democratic consultant. “And that is a good thing.”
When asked for an exact count of staff and advisers, Obama spokeswoman Jen Psaki declined to offer specifics.
“Enough,” she said.
His entourage is smaller than what a president would mobilize for a multinational trip, but dwarfs that of Republican John McCain, who solicits advice from a smaller circle of advisers after 25 years in Congress and numerous trips abroad.
McCain visited the Middle East and Europe in March as part of a congressional delegation, which was paid for by taxpayer dollars, thus limiting the number of staff he could bring.
But when the Arizona senator traveled to Mexico and Colombia last month, he mobilized only eight staff members, including two foreign policy advisers, two press aides, two advance workers and two assistants to Cindy McCain, said campaign spokesman Brian Rogers.