Following the election, President-elect Donald Trump's cabinet has quickly taken shape. Chief Strategist and Senior Counselor Steve Bannon and Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway have the roles with perhaps the most direct contact with the president-to-be, but what exactly makes their jobs different?
Trump wasted little time in appointing Bannon to the chief strategist position, thus solidifying the influence he would have over a Trump presidency. After Bannon's new position was announced, Conway quickly lauded him as a qualified individual and a "brilliant tactician," as reported by the New York Times. Conway's much-anticipated addition to the White House roster came nearly a month later. And though Bannon has yet to publicly comment on his new co-worker, it's likely the two will work well together in their differing capacities.
Trump transition team's statement about Conway's appointment vaguely laid out her new role:
The team's joint announcement of Bannon's and White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus' roles in the White House was even more opaque:
Since staff agendas will largely be up to Trump, the key to understanding the differences between Bannon's and Conway's roles at this point will be to look at those of their predecessors. For example, in George W. Bush's administration, Dan Bartlett served as counselor to the president and was responsible for overseeing presidential and White House communications, as well as "the formulation of policy and implementation of the President's agenda." That role changed somewhat during Obama's first administration, when Peter Rose filled the position and, according to Politico, acted as the president's "both mentor and sounding board" and advised on West Wing staffing concerns. Obama's next counselor to the president, John Podesta, shaped the administration's approach to Congress and implementation of the president's climate action plan.
On the other hand, as senior adviser under Obama, David Axelrod was "overseeing the president’s shift from campaign platform to governing agenda on all issues," according to a 2013 article from the New York Times' Jackie Calmes. The same article noted that Axelrod's successor, David Plouffe, was mostly responsible for managing the interplay between Obama's administration and election campaign, while Plouffe's successor Dan Pfeiffer focused more on long-term policy implementation strategy.
All of this is to say that, as it looks now, in their respective roles, Conway may be focused more on communications strategies while Bannon may be more focused on policy formulation. Together, the two will work with Trump to ensure his plans are implemented smoothly. Still, neither of their jobs are as set in stone as other cabinet positions, so Trump can tailor them to his administration as he sees fit. The main differences between their roles will become clearer once Trump's administration enters the White House and gets to work, but both will be close at hand to mentor and advise the president-to-be. And considering this will be his first-ever political position, he'll probably need all the advice he can get.