Shortly after President Obama departed for his vacation in Hawaii, Robert Gibbs found himself at his local DMV, waiting in his car to avoid the frozen lines outside. Such is the job of Press Secretary that such menial tasks, a trip to the grocery store, a license renewal, soon become all but impossible during the normal work week. But Gibbs’ freedom is about to be returned. He announced today that he will leave the West Wing, as expected, to become an outside political adviser to President Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign.
His successor has not yet been chosen, but the White House is abuzz with speculation, and not just for his job. In the coming days and weeks, the President will announce a new press secretary and a new director of the National Economic Council, a position that may go to Gene Sperling, a former Clinton administration official who helped structure the tax cut compromise with Republicans late last year. Other shifts in the senior ranks are widely expected. Pete Rouse, the current chief of staff, has previously made clear that he does not want to stay in the job for the longterm, though such past pronouncements are by no means predictive. The two deputy chiefs of staff, Mona Sutphen and Jim Messina, are also expected to depart, with Messina transitioning to take over managing the 2012 campaign.
David Axelrod, the president’s top message adviser, has said he will be leaving in a matter of months, and David Plouffe, who ran the 2008 campaign, is expected to join the White House staff any day. In the vice president’s office, Ron Klain, the chief of staff, has announced a return to the private sector, and communications director Jay Carney, who is well known to Swampland readers, had been mentioned as a possible replacement for Gibbs, along with Gibb’s current deputy Bill Burton. Stephanie Cutter, who has held several communications posts in the first couple of years, is widely liked within the West Wing, and is likely to be in line for some sort of promotion as well.
Tina Tchen, a deputy in Valerie Jarrett’s government outreach shop, has taken a job as the First Lady Michelle Obama’s chief of staff, opening up a position over there. As Crowley made clear yesterday on this page, rehabilitating the White House’s outreach operation, especially to the business community, is a top priority, and for that reason, in part, Bill Daley, a longtime friend and adviser of many in the West Wing, is in the running for a senior position in the White House, including possibly chief of staff.
All of this reshuffling, and much that is unmentioned here, could begin to fall into place in the coming days, as secrets about personnel moves are notoriously difficult to keep. Stay tuned.
UPDATE: Obama called the New York Times Wednesday morning to share his appreciation for Gibbs service. Said Obama, “He’s had a six-year stretch now where basically he’s been going 24/7 with relatively modest pay. I think it’s natural for someone like Robert to want to step back for a second to reflect, retool and that, as a consequence, brings about both challenges and opportunities for the White House.”