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Obama Seeks Professors’ Help

FAS and KSG profs advise the presidential candidate’s

As Presidential hopeful Barack Obama formulates his economic platform before intensive campaigning begins this summer, he is turning to the Harvard faculty for advice.

The Illinois Democrat has sought the help of David M. Cutler ’87, the Eckstein professor of applied economics, as well as Jeffrey B. Liebman, the Wiener professor of public policy at the Kennedy School of Government.

Obama, a 1991 graduate of Harvard Law School, is also receiving economic advice from Austin Goolsbee, a professor at the University of Chicago. Obama’s links to the professors were reported in The Wall Street Journal last week.

Cutler, who is also the dean for the social sciences, predicted that a great deal of the 2008 campaign will hinge on economic factors.

“Obviously Iraq is a huge, huge deal, but I don’t think that it is the only issue out there,” he said in an interview last week. “Beneath the surface, the second item on people’s minds is healthcare. The state of the economy is always on people’s minds and there is a huge state of unease and that gets magnified onto economic issues.”

Cutler and Liebman are no strangers to national politics. Cutler first worked on the presidential campaign of Michael S. Dukakis in 1988, and has since contributed to the Clinton, Bradley, and Kerry campaigns. Liebman, who declined to comment for this article, worked in the Clinton administration, where he coordinated a working group to reform Social Security policy.

Though Cutler is a veteran of campaign politics, he still expects that the 2008 race will be a unique experience for him.

“As one gets more senior in the world,” he said, “the things that you do get more fun.”

Obama is seeking advice from across academia as he packages his economic platform for the campaign trail.

“Obama’s campaign is indeed consulting widely, and that includes faculty members who are strong supporters (including me) and others who have not committed to any candidate but are glad to give advice,” Smith Professor of Law Martha L. Minow wrote in an e-mail.
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