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Several of Obama’s top advisers have already mapped out their exit plans. Senior adviser David Axelrod will leave the White House in the spring to jump-start Obama’s 2012 presidential campaign. Economic adviser Larry Summers is returning to Harvard University at the end of the year. Other changes include Herb Allison stepping down as the head of the government’s $700 billion financial bailout program, Peter Orszag quitting his post as director of the Office of Management and Budget, and Christina Romer leaving her slot as head of the Council of Economic Advisers.
Obama’s most noted change in personnel will come from Emanuel, who is all but certain to announce his plan to run for Chicago mayor on Friday. And some say whoever replaces him has to understand the need for a better communications strategy with the public if Democrats expect to be successful.
“The job of the chief of staff is one, to organizationally help make sure the trains are on time, and two, just to prioritize and help the president lay out a vision,” one senior House Democratic aide said. “We allowed the right to hijack the debate on health care and on the Recovery Act. If that’s a huge vulnerability then I think the incoming chief of staff should be dealing with it. Absolutely.”
Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman James Oberstar (D-Minn.) said whoever fills Emanuel’s shoes is going to have to be ready to counter the ongoing messaging strategy of Senate Republicans. That strategy, he said, is to “shut it all down” by blocking all bills and then accuse Democrats of failing to advance their agenda.
“We pass the bills, they blockade them in the Senate and then they point their fingers like the person who kills his father and mother and then appeals to he court for mercy because he’s an orphan. They created the problem ... that’s baloney,” he said.
“We need a very well-coordinated executive branch, legislative branch strategy going into the next Congress,” Oberstar said.
Even Republicans known for working with the White House had similar advice for Obama as he picks a new chief of staff and other advisers, particularly in light of expected GOP gains in November.
“The main thing is this new person needs to understand what in 2010 the message really was,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said.