Ending months of speculation and a persistent distraction at the White House, President Obama on Friday is expected to bid farewell to Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, a likely candidate for mayor of Chicago.
Senior adviser Peter Rouse, a longtime Obama aide who previously worked for former Sen. Tom Daschle of South Dakota, is expected to step into the top job.
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs declined to confirm the moves, but did provide a lengthy valedictory for Emanuel.
“I think his leadership, his energy, has helped us accomplish so much in helping our economy recover, in passing landmark Wall Street reform, health care reform, credit card reform,” Gibbs said. “There is not an important thing that has happened in this administration that we've been able to accomplish for the American people that has not involved heavily his signature.”
Emanuel, the intense, profane former ballet dancer and Democratic congressman from Illinois has been publicly pondering a mayoral run for some time.
The shift to Rouse would mark a significant change in style for Obama's chief of staff, an extraordinarily powerful position that functions as gatekeeper, reality check, strategist and more for the president.
Rouse, a low-key but well-regarded top member of the administration, was Obama's chief of staff in the Senate. Shy of cameras, Rouse is a sort of anti-Emanuel, although both share Obama's strong regard.
“There is a complete loyalty and trust with somebody like Pete,” Gibbs said. “Pete's strategic sense has played a big part in the direction of virtually every big decision that's made inside of this White House. So I think the type of trust that the president and others throughout this administration have in Pete is enormous.”
Emanuel, one of the first staff members Obama put in place, is the latest of several recent or pending high-profile departures from the administration.
Others expected to leave include former budget director Peter Orszag, National Economic Council Chairman Larry Summers, and Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who has signaled he may step down next year.
Senior adviser David Axelrod also is expected to leave the White House next year to begin work on Obama's re-election campaign.
Emanuel's departure and Axelrod's pending exit means Gibbs, the press secretary, will be the last of Obama's closest advisers in the White House.
While turnover in White House personnel is not uncommon after two years, there is also some hope at the White House that high-level changes will reinvigorate public perceptions about the administration.