He's the star of bulletins chronicling Barack Obama's movements, one of only a few nonrelatives to consistently get time with the Democratic candidate for president and a trusted confidant who has shared some of the most pivotal moments of Obama's career with him.
Yet journalists who have followed Obama's campaign for the better part of two years don't know what he looks like, staffers who have logged countless hours traveling with Team Obama didn't even know he works for the campaign and there's never been a story in a major media outlet about him.
He is Michael Signator, an aide and buddy of the man who — according to polls — stands a better-than-50-50 shot of becoming the next president of the United States of America. Technically, Signator's job is to provide "supplemental security support" for Obama's presidential campaign and also to coordinate the Obama family's personal and campaign schedules, according to Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt. A police officer in a suburban Chicago town, Signator met Obama while volunteering for his 2004 U.S. Senate campaign, which eventually hired him as Obama's driver.
For security reasons , Obama's presidential campaign refuses to reveal the details of Signator's role, but LaBolt said it brings Signator into frequent, close contact with the Obamas.
"Barack and Michelle Obama regularly confer with Mike, as do senior campaign officials. Sen. Obama has met with Signator both at the Obamas' home and at Mike's," LaBolt said in a statement.
Obama is known for his workout habits. On one day in July, news reports indicated Obama hit the gym on six different occasions on the same day while home in Chicago. Vogel says one of the attractions of visiting Signator is the gym at his building:
When Obama is at home, he works out regularly in the well-appointed gym on the ground floor of the building. But according to "protective pool reports" distributed among journalists following the campaign, Obama may also occasionally stop by the building just to hang out with "Sig," as some campaign staffers call him.
On a Sunday morning in late June, for instance, a pool report explained that Obama "went for a workout at his friend's Mike Signator's building. He wore his black White Sox cap; a gray T-shirt and black workout pants. He only stayed about 15 minutes. Press staff was unsure whether he worked out or just hung with his friend."
Pool reports have characterized Signator as, among other things, a "friend," a "longtime aide" and a "former bodyman."
Vogel notes that Signator is paid as a campaign staffer. Obama's 2004 senate campaign paid him nearly $50,000, while his presidential campaign has paid him a similar amount over the past year through the end of August. Oddly, Vogel's story observes that Signator was the first person Obama told when he was selected to deliver a keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. A comment Vogel made during Obama's 2004 senate campaign made it into David Mendel's biography of Obama. Quoting Mendel, Vogel writes, "Obama's 'driver and bodyguard,' joked that he 'thought Barack was going to rise up over the people and start saying, 'My children, my children, I have come to free you.'"
Obama's frequent trips to Signator's apartment have caught the attention of Signator's neighbors according to Vogel. "Whatever the two men's current relationship, the Illinois senator has spent so much time at the Regents Park that many of the residents have their own Obama stories, according to Min Kim," he writes. "Sometimes, according to pool reports, Obama has dropped by multiple times in a single day, particularly while he was weighing his choice of a running mate," he adds. "That led some in his traveling press corps to speculate that Obama may have been meeting with prospective vice presidential nominees at Sig's place, and it prompted The Washington Post to crack that Signator was 'not, as far as we know, on the short list.'"