Campaign '04: Bush's Rain Man

GENERALS OF THE GROUND WAR

In the first days of the George W. Bush Administration, Ken Mehlman, then head of the White House political office, would show up at the daily department heads' meeting carrying a printed sheet of paper with the day's priorities meticulously broken down into hyperorganized points and subpoints. "Everyone is looking at him bemused," Bush adviser Karl Rove recalled to TIME. "Then they all started making their own versions of it."

If Bush is re-elected, it will be in large measure because of Mehlman's discipline and attention to detail. As Bush's campaign manager, Mehlman, 38, a bachelor workaholic, has essentially built a...