Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Gibbs to leave White House

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs confirmed today he will leave next month to set up his own consulting business and become an outside political adviser to President Obama.

Gibbs is likely to discuss the move in a briefing later today.

Obama, in a telephone interview with The New York Times, said Gibbs will remain a close adviser and "will continue to shape the dialogue politically for many years to come."

The spokesman's departure is scheduled for early February after the president's State of the Union speech, which is tentatively set for Jan. 25.

Gibbs first went to work for Obama during his 2004 U.S. Senate campaign. The president told The Times:

There was no announcement about a successor to Gibbs. Among the contenders: Bill Burton, deputy spokesman, and Jay Carney, communication director for Vice President Biden.

Gibbs' move is part of an overall series of White House personnel moves, including a new director of the National Economic Council and, possibly, a new White House chief of staff.

Obama is talking with Clinton administration Commerce Secretary William Daley about the possibility of being chief of staff, though it's possible that interim chief Pete Rouse could keep the job full time.

"You'll be seeing announcements in due course," Obama told The New York Times. "Obviously, we've got a lot of work to do. The American people are expecting us to hit the ground running and start working with this new Congress to promote job growth and keep the recovery going."

As for Gibbs, Obama said, "Robert, on the podium, has been extraordinary. Off the podium, he has been one of my closet advisers. He is going to continue to have my ear for as long as I'm in this job."

It's long been suspected that Gibbs would leave the podium around the two-year mark of the Obama presidency. One option for him was another White House post, perhaps replacing David Axelrod as that senior adviser returns to Chicago to set up Obama's 2012 re-election campaign.

The possibility that Gibbs would leave the White House entirely surfaced recently, though he will probably remain a very public voice on behalf of Obama.

Potential models are James Carville and Paul Begala, major architects of President Bill Clinton's election in 1992. Afterward, they maintained a private consulting firm and served as prominent outside spokesmen throughout the Clinton presidency, including during his 1996 re-election bid.

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