2. Denis McDonough
When the history of the first Obama term is written, McDonough’s name will ring out. Despite an mundane-sounding position as chief of staff for the National Security Council, McDonough could be Obama’s single most influential foreign policy adviser. There is no geopolitical issue on which McDonough does not have Obama’s ear. That goes back to the campaign trail, when the former Center for American Progress scholar and aide to Sen. Tom Daschle became the lead manager, exponent, intellectual foil and coordinator of Obama’s foreign policy message. McDonough’s position at the NSC ensures that the White House will remain at the center of foreign policymaking. If McDonough leaves the White House or the administration entirely, no single adviser could likely replicate McDonough’s close relationship with the president.