U.S. President Barack Obama is joined by Democratic Nominee for President Hillary Clinton at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S. July 27, 2016. REUTERS/Scott Audette(reuters_tickers)
By Luciana Lopez
WEST HARRISON, N.Y. (Reuters) - Looking to lay the groundwork for her presidency if she wins the White House in November, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton named several veterans of President Barack Obama's administration for her transition team on Tuesday.
Ken Salazar, a former interior secretary and U.S. Senator from Colorado, will lead a team of four co-chairs including one-time national security adviser Tom Donilon and Neera Tanden, a former Obama aide who now leads the progressive Center for American Progress think-tank, the Clinton campaign said.
The other co-chairs are former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm and Maggie Williams, director of Harvard's Institute of Politics, the campaign said in a statement.
The announcement came as Clinton has gained momentum in the opinion polls against Republican rival Donald Trump, whose campaign has struggled after he made a string of controversial remarks since formally winning his party's nomination last month.
Clinton leads Trump in the Nov. 8 presidential election by more than 5 percentage points in a Reuters/Ipsos tracking poll released on Friday. The current RealClearPolitics average of polls shows her 6.7 points ahead.
Clinton has been a former secretary of state, U.S. senator and first lady and her transition team includes old names from her long tenure in Washington, some of whom have also served Obama.
Tanden, who played a key role in shaping Obama's health care overhaul, is a longtime friend and adviser to Clinton who worked on her Senate campaign. Williams was the 1992 transition director for Clinton when she became first lady, and then her chief of staff in the White House when Bill Clinton was president.
Two policy advisers on the campaign, Ed Meier and Ann O'Leary, will also move full time to the transition team.
Heather Boushey, the executive director of the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, will be the chief economist, the campaign said in a statement. Boushey has advised the campaign on economic policy.
Transition teams oversee personnel appointments and help develop an administrative framework during the period between the November election and the inauguration in January, to make it easier for a new president to begin implementing policy agendas.
Trump, a New York businessman who has never held elected office, picked New Jersey Governor Chris Christie to head his own transition team in May.
More establishment Republicans, alarmed by Trump's inability or unwillingness to rein in his provocative remarks, have distanced themselves from the candidate in recent weeks. The Wall Street Journal, a leading conservative voice, said in an editorial on Monday that he should fix his campaign in the next three weeks or hand over to his running mate, Indiana Governor Mike Pence.
Trump drew heavy criticism after engaging in a prolonged spat with the parents of a Muslim U.S. Army captain killed in Iraq. Last week, he suggested gun rights activists could take action against Clinton, a statement critics found alarming but which he later said was aimed at rallying votes against her.
Trump also called Obama and Clinton the "co-founders" of Islamic State, a false claim he later said was sarcastic but did not wholly abandon.
Despite Clinton's lead in polls, Obama warned Democrats against overconfidence, telling a fundraising gathering on Monday in Massachusetts, "If we are not running scared until the day after the election, we are going to be making a grave mistake."
(Additional reporting by Doina Chiacu; Writing by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Frances Kerry)