The news that Tom Daschle will be nominated to serve as Secretary of Health and Human Services is an interesting development for those tracking the shape of the new administration. Daschle alumni constitute their own cluster of critical mass within the Obama network; at least nine senior campaign advisers, many of whom, presumably, will be following Obama to Washington, have ties to the former Senate leader. Indeed, Obama shrewdly surrounded himself with experienced insiders, like Peter Rouse, who became free agents after Daschle's 2004 re-election defeat.
What's notable about this dynamic is that now Daschle himself will be there in the mix, instead of being the off-stage node that links everyone together. After staffing decisions are made and the dust settles, will the Daschlites end up clustered under their old boss, or, as is more likely the case, will they be spread throughout the administration? If the former, those outside the South Dakotan's circle at HHS may well find it hard to break in. If the latter, Daschle will be a more powerful player than his new (traditionally second-tier) portfolio suggests.
Daschle alumni include (feel free to add others I've missed in the comments section):
Robert Bauer, chairman of the political law group at Perkins Coie and counsel to the Obama campaign, served as counsel to Tom Daschle during Bill Clinton's impeachment.
Steve Hildebrand, Obama's deputy national campaign director, managed Daschle's unsuccessful re-election bid in 2004 and then directed Daschle's New Leadership for America PAC.
Pete Rouse, who became Obama's Senate Chief of Staff (and key architect of his political trajectory) after holding the same position for Daschle.
Julianna Smoot, who changed the course of campaign finance as Obama's national finance director, was fundraiser for Daschle's 2004 Senate race and worked for his DASHPAC.
Denis McDonough, an Obama foreign policy advisor, held a similar role for Daschle.
Mark Lippert, a close aide and member of the Obama campaign foreign policy team, is a former Daschle staffer (brought on at Rouse's recommendation).
Jason Grumet, who chaired the Obama campaign's environment and energy policy committee, is president of the Bipartisan Policy Center, which Daschle co-founded.