In Boston, Beth Myers is a minute away from the man who could be the 45th president of the United States. Her office is next to Mitt Romney’s at campaign headquarters. Myers, now a senior adviser to Romney, was his chief of staff when he was governor of Massachusetts. She is the person whom staff members seek out when they want the next best thing to an opinion from the candidate himself. She has a relationship with Romney and his wife, Ann, that former Romney administration member Tom Trimarco describes as “almost family.”
Myers is leading one of the campaign’s most consequential pursuits: Romney’s search for a vice presidential nominee. “She is an incredibly strong leader, and she has the governor’s ear as much as, if not more than, anybody else. And that’s why he chose her to head up his VP vetting process,” Communications Director Gail Gitcho says.
Myers likes to joke that, at 55, she is the “old lady” of a team of talented women on the campaign. A wife and a mother of two, she says that the female staffers help bring a family sensibility to the table. “What gets me ticking is how hard it is to make ends meet and how hard it is to keep your head above water. My husband and I both do very well … and at the end of the month, we’re both looking at each other and saying, ‘Where did it all go?’ ” Myers says. “It’s not just about jobs and numbers; it’s about people’s lives.”
She got her start in politics on Ronald Reagan’s 1980 campaign in Texas, where she impressed political operative Karl Rove with her organizational prowess. After a brief stint as a litigator, Myers returned to politics, eventually running Romney’s 2008 presidential bid.
Is a move to Washington in her future? “I don’t think about it,” Myers writes in an e-mail. “Would do anything for Mitt and Ann but am focused entirely on the campaign right now. Really.”
By Rebecca Kaplan
After she delivered her last State-of-the-State address as Arizona governor in January 2009, a late-night plane whisked Janet Napolitano to Washington for meetings at the White House and huddles on bioterrorism. She was about to take charge of the Homeland Security Department. The energetic secretary oversees 22 different government agencies that handle missions, including counterterrorism, disaster response, and cybersecurity. The first serious crisis on her watch, the attempted Christmas Day airline bombing in 2010, happened while she was in California with family. “You learn from each episode,” Napolitano says, recalling how the incident led to “some fundamental changes on how we manage our information within the department.”
At her male-dominated department, Napolitano, 54, is often the only woman at the meeting table. This isn’t a new experience for her. A former U.S. attorney in Arizona, she served as the state’s first female attorney general and as the first woman to chair the National Governors Association. Now Napolitano draws upon her skills to administer a complex immigration-enforcement system that was the subject of ridicule during George W. Bush’s presidency. She created a new command center in southern Arizona to plug the gaping hole in the U.S.-Mexico border that remained after the Bush administration patched up the weaknesses in Texas and Southern California.
Napolitano has been unapologetic about setting priorities for who should be deported. This summer, she will focus on implementing Obama’s initiative to defer deportation for certain young undocumented immigrants. “Since we don’t really know the numbers of kids we’re dealing with, planning for that is really quite challenging. We want to do it—and do it right,” she says.
By Sara Sorcher
Michelle Obama, 48, is without a doubt her husband’s fiercest supporter and closest confidant, as well as an accomplished public servant and a history-maker in her own right. She is known as much for her efforts to keep her two young daughters out of the spotlight, her role-model status for African-American girls and women, and her widely praised fashion sense as she is for her policy initiatives. Still, she has used her clout as first lady to launch two key programs: the “Let’s Move!” campaign to fight childhood obesity and “Joining Forces,” an initiative that supports veterans and military families. The first lady has championed a bill to improve school-lunch nutrition standards, coaxed private-sector companies into hiring veterans, and written the recently published book American Grown: The Story of the White House Kitchen Garden and Gardens Across America.
Obama has been an eloquent surrogate for the president, both at the White House and on the campaign trail. In fact, public-opinion polls show that she has long been viewed more positively than her husband. The Daily Show host Jon Stewart joked with her during a recent interview about her sky-high approval rating. You’re “like ice cream,” Stewart said, compared to the president, who is more like—“vegetables?” the first lady suggested.
The former Michelle Robinson was born on the South Side of Chicago into a middle-class family. She attended Princeton University and Harvard Law School, and met the president when both worked at Chicago law firm Sidley Austin. Before moving to the White House, she served as the vice president for Community and External Affairs at the University of Chicago Medical Center. When asked about her priorities as first lady, Obama often cites keeping her daughters, Malia, 14, and Sasha, 11, grounded.
By Sophie Quinton