Inside Barack Obama's "War Room"

As the Democratic fight continues, CBS News anchor Katie Couric went behind the scenes to see the campaign that's working feverishly to win the nomination for Barack Obama.

First, there's the candidate. Then there's the strategist behind the candidate ... and the campaign manager who leads a 24/7 political operation with one goal in mind: winning the presidency.

"What's a day in the life of David Axelrod like?" Couric asked David Axelrod, Obama's closest adviser.

"Life is a cascade of phone calls, e-mails, conference calls, meetings, and a lot of travel with Barack," Axelrod said.

"It's kind of a series of rolling conference calls all day long between us and the states, between us and the candidate," said campaign manager David Plouffe.

It's constant conversations that take place between Central Command in Chicago and what's known as the "bubble," an army of traveling press and campaign staffers.

"It's the production of everyone," said director of scheduling and advance Alyssa Mastromonaco.

"What's the most challenging part of doing this?" Couric asked.

"Um, I think the most challenging part is making sure that Barack gets home to see his family," Mastromonaco said.

The speeches Obama gives are crafted by a 26-year-old wordsmith and his equally youthful deputies.

"His voice is kind of in my head when I'm writing," said Speechwriter Jon Favreau. "I just have to make sure it jives with what he wants to say."

The finance department, led by Julianna Smoot, has helped raise a record-breaking $233 million so far.

According to Smoot, the average donation for Obama is $96. And it's even less if you only count online donors.

And then there are the communicators, both on the road and back at home base, who take incoming fire on the phones and over e-mail while making sure the message-of-the-day survives.

"We do our best to return everybody's calls but if we're not calling within the hour, you know, we're probably buried," said deputy press secretary Ben LaBolt.

Read Katie Couric's impression of Obama's war room at Couric & Co. blog
Couric said to deputy communications director Dan Pfeiffer: "You look like you're about 12, much like everyone out there."

Pfeiffer laughed, "And I am the oldest one out there. I'm 32."

When a meeting adjourns, it looks like class is out on a college campus. Many staffers are in their early 20s.

What is Pfeiffer's background?

"I worked for Sen. Evan Bayh when he was thinking about running for president," Pfeffer said.

Was he mad that Bayh became a Clinton supporter?

"I respect his decision," Pfeffer said.

And many once worked with Clinton's people. They're friends turned rivals. For campaign operatives, it's all in a days work.

"I worked on Sen. Clinton's senate campaign for senate in 2000," Axelrod said. "She's been very supportive of a cause that's close to me, which is epilepsy research. My daughter has very severe epilepsy and it's sort of been a defining struggle in our family. This was difficult and I had decided not to participate in the presidential race this year but I told everyone the one thing that would change for me is if Barack Obama decided to run for president."

"Because you had such a close association with the Clintons and they have been so helpful, was that a bit uncomfortable?" Couric asked.

"Yes, it's always difficult. That's why I hate primary elections because they are sort of family fights. And you end up having to work against people you care about," Axelrod said.

Even for this seasoned strategist, there have been lessons learned along the way.

"I think we did too much of that kind of iconic, rally-type campaigning," he said. "We've spent a lot more time in diners and, famously, bowling alleys."

And for the campaign manager, there's a silver lining in a battle that's been tougher - and lasted longer - than anyone expected.

And, challenged yet again by this week's Pennsylvania primary, off they go to fight another day.
  • Katie Couric

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