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David Axelrod hoping to Slash the 'Stache

Axelrod, President Barack Obama’s chief strategist from his two historical victories and a longtime Bulls season ticket holder, is taking on a new challenge. He hopes to raise $1 million towards finding a cure for epilepsy. And if he does, his trademark look will be gone after more than four decades.

Axelrod, above with Vice President Joe Biden at the United Center, is hoping the Slash the 'Stache campaign at slashthestache.com, which is raising money to fight epilepsy through CURE, Citizens United for Research in Epilepsy, will meet a goal of $1 million.
(Bill Smith/Chicago Bulls)

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Sam Smith Mailbag

Slash the 'Stache campaign: slashthestache.com
Also: Axelrod recalls Smith’s first years at the Tribune

David Axelrod has had a pretty good run. He’s just coming off being chief strategist for Barack Obama’s historic two presidential victories.

So you wouldn’t blame the Bulls season ticket holder since the mid-1970s if he wanted to disappear a bit and get back to seeing some Bulls games.

“I am really looking forward to a life as a full time (United Center) attendee,” Axelrod was saying the other day as he begins to look back on his last campaign as a political guru. “I’m really eager to come to (Bulls games), though I know we’re in this tenuous period waiting for Derrick (Rose) to get back. I love watching, regardless.”

But if you don’t recognize the president’s man in his usual spot at center court on the north side of the United Center at the end of this month it may because he doesn’t recognize himself, either.

That’s because the Bulls’ No. 1 fan may be without his close friend of more than 40 years, his mustache. And if he is without it, as frightening it may be to family, friends and even himself, Axelrod will be thrilled because it means he’s raised $1 million toward epilepsy cure research. They already are more than halfway there.

“It could be a shock to all involved,” Axelrod laughed. “I may have to wear a blindfold as it comes off. It’s something that started off as a lark to make a point in the middle of the campaign that has turned into an opportunity to do some good for a lot of people.”

The opportunity is Axelrod’s Slash the 'Stache campaign at slashthestache.com, where they are raising money to fight epilepsy through CURE, Citizens United for Research in Epilepsy. Assuming the $1 million goal is met, Axelrod will shave the most famous mustache since Groucho—OK, maybe Geraldo—on the MSNBC Morning Joe TV program.

The Bulls have made a contribution and Axelrod will appear on the team’s pregame show before the Milwaukee game Nov. 26 to talk about the project. You may remember Donald Trump, he of the Obama birth certificate investigations, offering $5 million to Obama’s favorite charity if Obama would show his college transcripts and passport. Dental records, too, I think.

Actually, David despite it all has a good relationship with the Donald and Trump—he’s really more show, as we suspect—sent $100,000. And good for another guy we also wondered about, Mark Cuban, who sent $200,000.

It all began amidst Axelrod’s barrage of pre-election TV appearances. He was on the Scarborough show and they were saying how no way Obama would win Michigan, Minnesota and Pennsylvania. Axelrod doesn’t get angry much despite the political trash talk, but the campaign was fairly sure with its data. Though he still complains about that Hue Hollins’ call in 1994.

“I was outraged at the crazy representations the other side kept making we couldn’t win,” recalled Axelrod. “Joe seemed convinced. I felt I had to do something, so I blurted out the mustache thing.”

Scarborough matched that and said he’d grow one if Obama won Florida. See, not everyone was obsessing over the Bench Mob like us.

Anyway, we know what happened and Axelrod and his wife, Susan, chairperson of CURE, decided to turn the little bet into a big bet to try further in finding a cure for epilepsy, which afflicts their daughter, Lauren.

David Axelrod with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel“I am really looking forward to a life as a full time (United Center) attendee,” Axelrod was saying the other day as he begins to look back on his last campaign as a political guru. “I’m really eager to come to (Bulls games), though I know we’re in this tenuous period waiting for Derrick (Rose) to get back. I love watching, regardless.”

“This will allow us to give four multiyear grants that could lead to breakthroughs,” said Axelrod. “It will allow scientists to do their work and this can raise public awareness. People don’t know epilepsy affects millions and how difficult like with Lauren the drugs and treatment can be and how many people it affects.”

Scarborough bowed out of the wager, but donated $10,000 to the campaign. And they were off and counting, though no sponsorship with a razor company yet.

So what was the mustache story?

“Back in the 1970s,” Axelrod recalls, “that’s what people did. We all looked like aspiring porn stars. And I had a little scar on my upper lip. I thought maybe I should cover it up. I am eager to see if it’s healed.”

Axelrod now heads to his role as director of the new University of Chicago Institute of Politics, will write a book and do speeches.

“And I’ll still be available to the president,” said Axelrod. “He’s not just an old client, but a friend of the last 20 years who will be a friend for life. If he calls me, I’ll always answer.”

Though if Axelrod is such a good strategist—and the record says he’s the best—then maybe he can devise something for the Bulls.

“There’s going to be good nights and bad nights, but not because they don’t show up,” Axelrod agrees. “For example, (Joakim) Noah looks in great shape, better than any time since he’s been a Bull. His play is reflecting that. So some good things are happening. But every team needs a superstar, and we need ours. We’re all waiting and watching his progress and until then I feel we can be competitive.”

Though he hopes to be wearing that upper lip warmer to the games comes December.

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