WASHINGTON -- Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a congresswoman from Florida and a key White House defender, was chosen by President Barack Obama on Tuesday to become chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee.
Obama picked the four-term lawmaker from to succeed Tim Kaine, who earlier Tuesday announced that he would seek a Senate seat in Virginia.
The move elevates Wasserman Schultz to a crucial role as Obama looks toward a re-election campaign that will use the DNC to define his likely Republican rivals.
"As Chairman Kaine departs, new leadership must come on," Vice President Joe Biden wrote to the Democratic National Committee Tuesday afternoon. "In selecting Debbie to lead our party, President Obama noted her tenacity, her strength, her fighting spirit and her ability to overcome adversity."
Wasserman Schultz, who backed one-time Obama rival Hillary Clinton during the 2008 presidential primary, quickly became a favorite of the Obama campaign.
"I couldn't have gotten through '08 in Florida without her, and she's been there every step of the way through the first term," said Steve Schale, a Tallahassee-based political consultant who ran Obama's Florida operation.
"She is a tireless advocate, she's loyal, but she's not a soldier, she's a leader."
As DNC chairwoman, she is expected to serve as a fierce critic of the yet-unformed Republican field of potential challengers to Obama and the Democrats.
She also will be a familiar advocate in Florida, a perennial swing state that will be crucial to Obama's re-election bid.
A rising star in Democratic politics, Wasserman Schultz helped raise millions for the committee during previous election cycles.
In March 2009, the mother of three announced that she had breast cancer, and she underwent a double mastectomy.
"Debbie approached cancer the way she approached everything else in her life -- head on, 100 miles per hour and never give up," said Schale.