Changes to a president’s inner circle often move him in one direction, away from the team that surrounded him through the election and toward a more diverse mix of advisers.
But Obama is going in the other direction. His war council will soon look more like his presidential campaign than it has during the first two years of his presidency.
White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel will announce his departure Friday, and is likely to run for mayor of Chicago. He will be replaced by senior adviser Pete Rouse, who has been with Obama since his time as a senator.
But the most significant change to Obama’s innermost ring of advisers will be the subtraction of Emanuel and the imminent addition of David Plouffe, Obama’s former campaign manager. Plouffe is set to enter the West Wing to replace senior adviser David Axelrod, who will leave in April.
The Daily Caller spoke to several sources – inside and outside the White House – who all gave varying levels of confirmation that Plouffe will be at the White House soon, though they gave no indication of how soon after the Nov. 2 election. Plouffe himself declined to comment.
Axelrod, who last week first told TheDC of his plans to leave the White House next year, said Thursday – as he walked into the Atlantic’s Washington Ideas Forum – that he would not comment on “personnel [stuff] that hasn’t happened yet.”
But it is Plouffe’s presence that would be the most significant check on Valerie Jarrett, the close friend and adviser to Obama who stands to only grow in influence with the impending departures of Emanuel and Axelrod, and the president’s forceful economic adviser, Larry Summers. All three men were Jarrett’s rivals to one extent or another, and the news that Jarrett is the one vetting potential replacements for Summers is just the latest sign that she is at the center of the president’s decision-making process.
Plouffe – who was reported to be at odds with Jarrett during the presidential campaign – has been in closer contact with White House officials over the past several months since taking on an advisory role at the Democratic National Committee.
Yet he would nonetheless be at something of a disadvantage in angling for influence with the president for the first few weeks as he came up to speed on the intricacies of how the West Wing works, said Dan Bartlett, who served as a senior adviser to former President George W. Bush.
“If you’re still trying to figure out where to go to the bathroom and where to park the car, and much less how to maneuver through the staffing process … knowing when memos hit the president’s desk, knowing how editing memos can punctuate things in a different way … obviously there’s a little bit of an edge,” Bartlett said.
“As far as how do you maneuver in the White House, that tone is really set by the president, as far as, ‘How does he solicit advice? How does that person consume information? How does that person inform himself?’” Bartlett said.
NEXT: Reactions to Emanuel’s departure and Jarrett’s increased stature