Photograph by Lara Shipley, special to The Root.com

Myesha Ward

Age: 33

Hometown: Olney, Md.

Positions: Delegate Counter, Midwest Political Director

Campaign Turf: Chicago; Iowa, South Carolina, Missouri

New Washington Gig: Coordinator for Intergovernmental Affairs, Office of the U.S. Trade Representative

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If Myesha Ward were any less persuasive, it’s pretty safe to say Barack Obama would not be president. Her official title on the campaign was deputy director of delegate operations, which meant that, a full 12 months before the average American had ever heard of a superdelegate—the shadowy party members who would end up deciding the outcome of the Democratic slugfest between Clinton and Obama—Ward was on the case. Starting in April 2007, Ward worked the phones incessantly, coordinating outreach to mayors, governors, party operatives, and members of Congress—seeking to lock down their endorsements prior to state primaries. “I knew it would be important because of how many people were in the Democratic race,” says Ward. “The premise was, the more delegates you could bank, then you could really concentrate on winning the states.”

And win they did. Once primary states started to tip for Obama, Ward, the daughter of Jamaican immigrants, deployed David Axelrod, David Plouffe, key surrogates, her team of delegate trackers, and Obama himself to win supporters prior to the convention in Denver. “Some of the toughest conversations were just that they didn’t think he was ready,” she says of superdelegates. “The only thing they knew about Senator Obama was the speech he gave at the 2004 convention.” Clips from local media and national polls helped sweeten the deal. “We wanted them to see the workings of the campaign,” she adds. The party brass needed to be convinced that “hope and change” would “translate into something more substantive,” a movement they could get behind.

A lawyer by training and a veteran of John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign, Ward made her case successfully—and then hit the trail for the general election as a regional political director for the Midwest. In Washington, she works in the office of the U.S. Trade Representative as a coordinator for intergovernmental affairs, mining the relationships she built with Democrats across the country. “There was always someone who really got it,” she says about race in the campaign. “The faces of the campaign were so diverse and it made people realize that there was a segment out there that had never been tapped—not just the campaign talent, or the delegates … but the actual voters and constituents.”

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Covers the White House and Washington for The Root. Follow her on Twitter.