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Obama campaign shows N.C. a little Love

Reggie Love, the former personal aide to President Barack Obama and a former Duke basketball and football player, will be in Charlotte today of a voter registration drive.

Love will be joined by Keshia Knight Pulliam, an actress who appears in Tyler Perry's House of Payne in the registration drive that is connected with the CIAA tournament weekend of basketball action.

First Lady Michelle Obama is also expected to make an appearance at the tournament on Friday. She will also attend fund raisers in Raleigh and Charlotte on Friday.

Meanwhile, in Asheville this evening, the Obama campaign will open its 9th campaign office in the state at 230 Hilliard Ave.

Love's labor lost

Reggie Love, the former Duke basketball player who has been at President Obama's side since he was in the Illinois legislature, will be leaving the White House by the end of the year.

The White House confirmed this afternoon that Love was leaving to pursue his MBA at the Wharton School of Business, where he is already enrolled in the executive MBA program.

Love has been characterized as Obama's "body man," the aide who takes care of "stuff" for the president. According to a 2008 New York Times profile that stuff can include carrying a spare coat for the president in case the day gets chilly, steering him through crowds and holding onto whatever he might need.

He's also the one who regularly plays basketball with the president. Love was a forward for the Duke Blue Devils when they won the 2001 NCAA championship. He was also a wide receiver on Duke's football team.

Put us on the bench, coach

Oops! Dome has a red face today.

On Friday our usually impeccable sources told us that Reggie Love was responsible for the split lip that President Obama received during a basketball game. Later, apparently while we were enjoying Thanksgiving leftovers and paying no attention to the rest of the world, the White House released the name of the real culprit: Reynaldo Decerega, director of programs for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute.

Dome is investigating whether our source on the original post is a UNC fan trying to tarnish the image of Love, the former Duke University basketball and football standout.

We'd also suggest that Coach K see about recruiting Decerega. After all, he already knows how to use his elbows. 

Love appreciates the 'irony'

Dome asked the White House to get Reggie Love on the record about yesterday’s event with the Blue Devils. Love, the personal assistant to President Barack Obama, is tough to interview in person, what with being a few steps from POTUS most days.

But we had to check in with Love, a member of Duke’s 2001 NCAA championship team, after he was prominently dissed by his boss for his shaky shooting skills during Thursday’s ceremony, Barb Barrett reports. Love was nice in his response, focusing attention on the current team and their 2010 championship.

He also made a passing reference to Obama’s choice a year ago of UNC-Chapel Hill to win the tournament, a pick that rankled Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski.

Here’s Reggie Love’s statement, through the White House press office:

"It was a very special day. There is nothing better than knowing how hard those kids worked and played over the course of their careers to achieve what many people never get to. It made me immensely proud to call myself a Blue Devil – and the irony of the situation is pretty funny as well. GO DUKE!!!"

Love gets the love

Hard to say who was the most popular guy in the White House Rose Garden this morning: President Obama? Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski? Or Reggie Love?

Love, a former Duke basketball captain and member of the 2001 NCCA men’s championship team, also is Obama’s body man and frequent pickup teammate. He was notorious back in Durham for a shaky shooting percentage. He’s known around the White House as a big-time Blue Devils fan.

And he got the first big applause of the day when he walked onto stage, alone, to adjust something on Obama’s podium before the event started, reports Barb Barrett. “Reggie!” the crowd shouted, and broke into applause.

Later, Obama took a crack at Love’s expense:

"Now some of you may know that my assistant, Reggie Love, used to play for Coach K at Duke... In fact, Reggie was so excited to see his old coach today that I had to make him come out and run some sprint drills just to calm him down," Obama said.

He went on: “And then Coach and I were both discussing – I play with Reggie now, and when Reggie was playing, Coach said, ‘Don’t shoot!’

"And when he’s on my team, I say to Reggie, ‘Don’t shoot!’ So things haven’t changed.”
Obama made like he was waving down the court at Love. “’Go down in the post, rebound.’”

After the ceremony, local reporters asked the press office about interviews: Will Reggie come out? Can we talk to Reggie?

Alas, Love was back inside the White House with Obama and former President Bill Clinton, shooting photos with the men’s 2010 World Cup soccer team.

“Hey Reggie,” Clinton called out to him, “Are they going to give you another chance to play for Duke? Did they draft you?"

White House to turn Duke blue

The White House is a house divided about next week's scheduled visit from the Duke University NCAA champion men's basketball team.

President Barack Obama, of course, is a basketball fanatic. Dome readers might recall that during the campaign, he practiced with the UNC-Chapel Hill men's team. Last year, Obama welcomed the UNC's national champion squad to the White House.

But there are some basketball partisans among his staff. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs is an N.C. State University grad and Reggie Love, the president's personal assistant or "body man" is a former Duke basketball and football player.

Gibbs gave a sense in a news conference today that he's not exactly thrilled about next week's events, Barb Barrett reports.

“On Thursday, President Obama will — and this is hard for an N.C. State graduate to say — welcome the NCAA men's basketball champion, Duke Blue Devils, to the White House — Reggie will be in rare form — to honor their 2009 and 2010 season."

N.C. native named White House social secretary

North Carolina native Julianna Smoot has been named the new White House social secretary.

Smoot, who was finance director for Barack Obama's presidential campaign, replaces Desiree Rogers who came under criticism when a socialite couple crashed a White House party last year, Rob Christensen reports.

Smoot grew up in Southern Pines and Clinton where her father was a golf pro and her mother was a school teacher. Her parents now live in the Wake County community of Willow Springs.

After attending Smith College on a scholarship, Smoot rose in Democratic politics as a top political fund raiser. She worked in the 1998 Senate campaign of John Edwards, raised more than $100 million for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in 2006, and worked for other Senate campaigns such as Richard Durbin of Illinois, Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, and then-Senate leader Tom Daschle.

Obama's was her first presidential campaign, and it set a record for fund raising.

She had been working as chief of staff to U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk. She will hold the rank of deputy assistant to the president.

"Julianna shares our commitment to creating an inclusive, dynamic and culturally vibrant White House, and Michelle and I are pleased to have her join our team," Obama said in a statement.

She is the second ranking person with strong North Carolina ties in the White House. Robert Gibbs, an N.C. State University graduate and former press secretary for Rep. Bob Etheridge, is Obama's chief spokesman.

Photo by Washington Post

A little love for Love

President Barack Obama was back in North Carolina. That, naturally, meant another shout-out to Reggie Love.

Love, the former Duke basketball and football player, is Obama's personal assistant - or body man. So whenever Obama is in North Carolina, he manages to mention Love.

"This is a community and a state that has been so good to me," Obama said at the town hall meeting at Broughton High School today. "And I know that part of the reason is that I travel with one of your home boys, Reggie Love."

"But I hope it's more than that," Obama said.

Tar Heels headed for White House

Next stop for the Tar Heels: The White House.

The country’s B-baller-in-chief will host the UNC-Chapel Hill men's team on May 11 at the White House, Barb Barrett reports. The team was invited by President Barack Obama for a ceremony in honor of their NCAA championship this year.

Details about the White House event remain sketchy, but here's some background: Obama practiced with the UNC team during the 2008 presidential campaign.

His personal assistant and body man, Reggie Love, played on a championship Duke basketball team. And Obama picked the Heels to win it all in his NCAA March Madness choices.

The president traditionally honors champions in both collegiate and professional sports. The UNC women's soccer team and the Carolina Hurricanes have previously been honored at the White House.

Obama not taking sides in UNC-Duke

President Obama may be identifying with Coach K.

At a roundtable of regional reporters in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, the president came close to predicting a rebound for Duke basketball's Coach Mike Krzyzewski at tonight's highly anticipated Carolina-Duke game.

He said Duke is "coming off one of the worst losses it has had in several years," but noted that Coach K had been working the team pretty hard this week.

"They might be fired up," he said. "I hope it's a close game."

Obama, of course, has been similarly pushing Congressional Democrats to pass an economic stimulus package tonight after getting rebuffed by Republicans and losing a Cabinet pick to tax trouble.

Still, the president avoided taking sides in the famous rivalry, although he played a pickup game with many of the Tar Heel standouts before the May primary.

Pointing to his body man, former Duke basketballer Reggie Love, he said he has to remain on the sidelines, as it were.

"If I said anything contrary to Duke, I might not be able to find my Blackberry," he said.

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