Perhaps no White House chief of staff in modern history has worked the media as aggressively and relentlessly as Emanuel. Drawing on his long-standing relationships with journalists, Emanuel serves up on-the-record quotes, background spin and the sort of capital gossip that lubricates relationships. The former Chicago congressman also seeks their take on events and floats possible administration tactics.

And Emanuel is brusquely efficient. “It’s a no-nonsense relationship,” Todd says. “He’s always trying to extract as much information as he’s trying to give.”

“He thinks like a journalist,” says Obama senior adviser David Axelrod, who marvels at his colleague making multiple calls and wolfing down lunch at the same time.