David Plouffe, Campaign Manager, Obama 2008
(Age: 44; Last Year's Rank: 26)
Jon Favreau, Chief Speechwriter, Obama 2008 (Age: 27)
Sure, Barack Obama is a man of uncommon political skill. But were it not for David Plouffe and Jon Favreau, he might have ended up working the rubber-chicken circuit for Hillary Clinton. Plouffe diligently scrutinized the arcane delegate math that the Clinton camp all but ignored, and he emerged from Super Tuesday with a battle plan and the budget to pay for it. After Obama clinched the nomination, Plouffe, says Democratic strategist Peter Feld, "did what few successful insurgencies have managed to do: pivot seamlessly to a general-election strategy." With more than 3 million donors and four times as much money as McCain, Obama's juggernaut dwarfed the competition by just about every conceivable metric. None of that would have mattered if the candidate had not given voice to his vision for America. Enter wunderkind wordsmith Jon Favreau, who at age 26 became the go-to guy for the rhetorical flourishes that inspired the nation, working directly with Obama to craft his soaring speeches. He modestly compared the job to being "Ted Williams' batting coach." With Favreau's mighty pen and Plouffe's steady management, Team Obama proved impossible to beat.