Sisters, Top Advisers With Opposing Views, Bring California Influence To Campaign Trail

By Evan Halper
Tribune Washington Bureau.

PALO ALTO, Calif.

Kristina Schake had built a solid reputation among political operatives for driving the shift in voter opinion on same-sex marriage, foiling Big Tobacco forces and helping Michelle Obama transcend the traditional role of first lady, but the State Department was not her wheelhouse.

So when Schake was about to interview this year for a big job on the campaign of Hillary Rodham Clinton, the former secretary of state, she needed a crash course in foreign affairs.

The tutor she chose had a surprising background: a confidant of Condoleezza Rice who helped the administration of George W. Bush craft national security policy and schooled former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin in diplomacy.

The two were a political mismatch. But they were aligned on more important things. They were sisters.

“Every time one of us has something big we are looking at, it is the other one we want to talk to,” said Schake’s sister, Kori.

The sisters from the outskirts of downtown Sonoma inhabit opposite ends of the California political divide.

Kori Schake operates out of Stanford’s Hoover Institution, the West Coast spawning ground for conservative thought. Prominent Republicans seek her guidance on such matters as State Department management and the intricacies of NATO politics.

Her younger sister by eight years, Kristina, a former L’Oreal executive and voracious consumer of all things pop culture, is one of the left’s most sought-after image advisers. Rob Reiner, Maria Shriver, Michelle Obama and now Clinton have all looked to Kristina Schake to build campaigns fueled by what’s trending in the real world.

Californians are rightfully grumpy about how little attention presidential candidates seem to pay voters in their noncompetitive state. But the Schake sisters underscore how big California ideas and movements, on the right and the left, are guiding presidential politics.

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