Barack Obama's longtime campaign guru David Axelrod has a new client: Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti.
Axelrod slipped into Rome to meet privately with Monti, 69, a political centrist and longtime university professor and European Union Commissioner, who served one year as caretaker Prime Minister. Monti is now in his first campaign for higher office, facing both former three-time Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi on the right and center-left favorite Pierluigi Bersani in next month's national elections.
Axelrod confirmed in an email to La Stampa that he took a trip to the Italian capital 10 days ago to meet with Monti. “I was in Rome for a day at the request of my former consulting firm ... to offer my opinions and observations” to Monti “and, I did.”
The mustachioed Axelrod is perhaps Obama's closest political advisor, having helped lead him to victory in his races for the U.S. Senate, and both campaigns for the White House.
Born on the Lower East Side of Manhattan and a young fan of Robert Kennedy, Axelrod has a friendly air, but is considered a “street fighter,” having sharpened his craft in the tough world of Chicago politics. In the 2012 re-election campaign, he helped lead the attack against Mitt Romney's privileged background and past in private equity.
On a closer inspection, some signs of the "Axe" touch are already visible in Monti's approach. Monti has begun to stress his ideas for political reform, something of the Italian version of Obama's message of change. The normally mild-mannered Monti has also stepped up his verbal attacks on Berlusconi, against whom he is battling for center-right voters.
Although the relationship between Axelrod and Monti is a private consultancy, it is difficult to imagine that Obama would not know about the job. The two share a close bond, which continues to include a regular exchange of opinions, whether on foreign or domestic policy and anything of relevance to the administration.