Gibbs to Step Down as Obama Spokesman Amid White House Shakeup

Published January 05, 2011

| FoxNews.com

Press Secretary Robert Gibbs is stepping down as the chief spokesman for the White House to become an outside adviser to the president and his re-election campaign.

Gibbs will leave after Obama delivers his State of the Union address at the end of this month, a senior administration official told Fox News. While Gibbs will no longer be the face of the administration, he will still be giving speeches on behalf of the president and making TV appearances.

"It is an honor and a privilege to stand here, to work inside this building,to serve your country, to work for a president that I admire as much as President Barack Obama," he told reporters in the White House briefing room on Wednesday.

No successor has been immediately named. But Gibbs told The New York Times, which first reported the departure, that a replacement will likely be announced within the next two weeks. 

Gibbs' departure from the briefing room podium is part of a broader shakeup in President Obama's senior leadership team as the White House pivots to deal with a new era of divided government in Washington.

"What I'm going to do next is step back a little bit, recharge some," he said. "We've been going at this pace for at least four years. I will have an opportunity to do some speeches. I will continue to provide advice and counsel to this building and to this president. And I look forward to continuing to do that."

Obama praised Gibbs in a written statement and said he would remain a close adviser.

"For the last six years, Robert has been a close friend, one of my closest advisers and an effective advocate from the podium for what this administration has been doing to move America forward," he said. "I think it's natural for him to want to step back, reflect and retool. That brings up some challenges and opportunities for the White House -- but it doesn't change the important role that Robert will continue to play on our team."

The leading candidates to replace Gibbs include deputy press secretaries Bill Burton and Josh Earnest, and Jay Carney, a spokesman for Vice President Biden.

Another possible White House departure on the horizon: Obama's interim chief of staff, Pete Rouse, who has been heading a staff review that is expected to result in some West Wing shakeups. Obama is considering tapping former Commerce Secretary Bill Daley to replace Rouse.

David Plouffe, the architect of Obama's 2008 presidential campaign, is expected to be in the White House as soon as next week as an adviser to the president. One of the president's most trusted advisers, David Axelrod, is leaving this month; he is expected to take a break and recharge for a central role in the 2012 re-election campaign.

Obama is also expected to have a new chief economic adviser and two new deputy chiefs of staff.

All the changes are aimed at dealing with a Republican-led House and a Senate with a slimmer Democratic majority.

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