Tommy Vietor’s journey with Obama: From van driver to National Security Council spokesman

Jonathan Karl, Richard Coolidge, and Jordyn Phelps
Power Players

Politics Confidential

Tommy Vietor started working for Barack Obama when he was still Senator Obama--well before he became a presidential candidate--and until Friday, the 32-year-old Vietor hadn't stopped. His first job for Obama was as the driver of a press van, and he rose up the ranks through the 2008 campaign, and then the White House press office, to become the National Security Council spokesman.

Now leaving the White House to open a political communications firm with the president's departing speechwriter Jon Favreau, Vietor says it's been the privilege of a lifetime to work for the president.

"It's been kind of a front seat at some historic events--killing bin Laden, ending the Iraq war, a whole bunch of things--so it's been extraordinary," Vietor says.

The longtime Obama staffer says it's not without some sadness that he moves on, recalling a recent conversation he had with the president.

"I said 'Sir, you know, talking about it, and I feel it's a little sad to be leaving,' and he was like 'what do you mean sad for you?' he said, 'it's sad for me! You guys are you know, ditching me'," Vietor recalls to Politics Confidential of his conversation with the president. "But you know I think he's excited. The turnover is good for the administration, for him, get some new faces in there, new energy."

Of all the memories that Vietor takes with him, his best was being with then-candidate Obama when he won the Iowa caucus in the 2008 campaign.

"We went to a caucus location that day, I went with him. We saw these huge lines of people out to vote, or caucus," Vietor recalls. "You could sort of feel there was a palpable sense, there was something building you know we were getting calls in from all the people in the field about the numbers they were seeing, and it was, you know, the culmination of a year-long process to build this grassroots campaign. It was extraordinary."

While his best memory came from the 2008 campaign, so did his worst.

"The worst day I would say would be, uh you know, a good three months worth of primaries after New Hampshire. Uh, those were tough," says Vietor.

For more of the interview with Tommy Vietor, and to hear his story about the day bin Laden was killed, check out this week's Politics Confidential.

ABC's Alexandra Dukakis and Mary Bruce contributed to this episode.