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Inside Politics

Kerry picks senior campaign aide

John Kerry
John Kerry speaks to supporters Saturday at a rally in Akron, Ohio.
• The Candidates: Bush | Kerry
America Votes 2004
John F. Kerry
Democratic candidates

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry, under pressure to bring new focus to his campaign, added a veteran political strategist to his travelling campaign entourage, rounding out changes to his senior staff.

Democratic National Committee General Election Manager John Sasso will become the senior campaign staffer aboard the Kerry campaign plane, a key role in the final weeks leading up to the election.

Sasso's résumé includes a stint managing the failed 1988 presidential campaign of Michael Dukakis.

Sasso will be replaced at the DNC by Michael Whouley, a veteran Massachussetts political strategest who recently re-joined the Kerry campaign.

Whouley, who has advised Kerry for years, was a top Clinton campaign strategist in the 1992 and 1996 campaigns and a top Gore strategist in 2000.

These changes come on the heels of the addition of several former top Clinton administration staffers to the Kerry campaign.

Former Clinton press secretary Joe Lockhart will oversee the campaign's communications and stragegy operation, CNN has learned.

Former Clinton political advisers Doug Sosnik and Joel Johnson also joined the Kerry campaign in recent weeks.

Kerry advisers called the changes part of the normal evolution of a campaign's staff as election day approaches.

But the changes come at a critical time for Kerry as a new post-convention poll by Newsweek has Bush beating Kerry among registered voters 54 to 43 percent.

With the new staff additions, the roles of campaign manager Mary Beth Cahill and communications director Stephanie Cutter will be modified.

Cahill will remain campaign manager, but will now focus on the day-to-day campaign operations.

Cutter will remain communications director but Lockhart will oversee the campaign's overall communications strategy.

CNN Correspondents Candy Crowley and Ed Henry and Executive Producer Sam Feist contributed to this report.

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