In the months leading up to Senator Barack Obama's big loss in the Pennsylvania primary, he was a detached manager: around, but not meddling. Rarely on early-morning conference calls with his senior advisers, he delegated most decisions to others and did not immerse himself in all of the nuts and bolts of running for president.
After that defeat in April, a friend gave Mr. Obama an urgent piece of advice: "Put your hand on the tiller."
And that Mr. Obama did. He began participating in more strategy sessions, spoke out against a summertime gasoline tax suspension more forcefully than some advisers initially preferred, and last week was involved in conference calls that led to the departure of James A. Johnson, the man leading the campaign's vice-presidential search.
He did not assign blame for the first big misstep of the general election campaign, participants said. But he asked his aides to assess the gravity of the problem and listened as they charted a course to proceed.
Mr. Obama did not deliver the bad news himself -- he seldom does -- but he accepted the resignation of Mr. Johnson, who faced Republican criticism for getting cut-rate mortgages from the troubled lender Countrywide Financial.