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Shop Talk: Gibbs Leaves White House as 2012ers Staff Up

On His Way Out, Press Secretary Predicts That President Is ‘Probably My Last Political Candidate’

File Photo
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs is leaving his job to become a political consultant. Gibbs, a close friend to President Barack Obama for years, will help with Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign.

Press Secretary Robert Gibbs announced Wednesday he will be leaving the White House in early February. Along with giving the longtime spokesman for President Barack Obama a break, the move will allow Gibbs to help the president from the outside with the 2012 re-election campaign looming.

Asked at his daily press briefing whether he would also advise other political candidates, Gibbs said, “My current boss is probably my last political candidate. ... Seems like a good one to stop on.”

Gibbs also said Obama’s 2008 campaign manager, David Plouffe, would begin working at the White House on Monday. Senior adviser David Axelrod will also leave the White House soon to head the president’s re-election campaign from Chicago.

In GOP presidential politics news, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum announced Wednesday that he hired Mike Biundo to serve as New Hampshire state director for his America’s Foundation political action committee.

Biundo, a veteran campaign hand in New Hampshire, most recently helped Rep. Frank Guinta defeat incumbent Democrat Carol Shea-Porter in November. Biundo previously worked on the presidential campaigns of former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson and Pat Buchanan, who scored a narrow primary victory in the Granite State in 1996.

“As former Senator Santorum continues to consider a run for president, I am pleased to have the opportunity to play a part in that process,” Biundo said in a statement.

Active Duty

Pete Hegseth, executive director of the Vets for Freedom PAC, is deploying to Afghanistan with the Army, and VFF founder Wade Zirkle will serve as interim director in his absence.

Zirkle founded the group in late 2005, and Hegseth took over as director in the spring of 2007. Its political arm supports veterans who are “pro-victory” candidates for Congress, including Republicans and a few Democrats, and its educational arm supports those policies. In 2010, the group focused on helping 10 candidates, eight of whom won: Republican Reps. Allen West (Fla.), Steve Stivers (Ohio), Adam Kinzinger (Ill.), Joe Heck (Nev.), Andy Harris (Md.), Michael Grimm (N.Y.), Tim Griffin (Ark.) and Chris Gibson (N.Y.). The group also endorsed losing Republican candidates Ilario Pantano (N.C.) and Sean Bielat (Mass.), as well as losing Democratic Rep. Jim Marshall (Ga.).

Zirkle served as a Marine from 2000 to 2005, including two tours in Iraq. While Hegseth has led the group, Zirkle has been a member of its board.

VoteVets.org, a more liberal group that also aims to elect veterans to Congress, went through a similar transition. Founder Jon Soltz announced on Veterans Day that he was being deployed to Iraq with the Army Reserves. Former Congressional candidate and VoteVets.org Vice Chairman Ashwin Madia will serve as interim director. He is an Iraq War veteran.

All PACed Up at the NRSC

Lauren Griffin was promoted to PAC director for the National Republican Senatorial Committee this cycle. Griffin served as deputy PAC director for the NRSC in the 2010 cycle and is one of many top operatives staying for a second cycle — keeping the staff’s core in place.

Prior to serving at the NRSC, Griffin was an associate at Dutko Worldwide, specializing in telecom and technology issues. Griffin is a native Texan and University of Texas graduate.

From the Trail to the Hill

Three political communications operatives are now working for Senators on Capitol Hill, including two that are up for re-election in 2012. Amber Marchand, who served as press secretary at the National Republican Senatorial Committee during the 2010 election cycle, is now the communications director for Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt, who was elected in November.

Emily Bittner, who served as communications director at the Democratic Governors Association last cycle, is serving the same role for West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin. Manchin, a former DGA chairman, won a special election in November to fill the remaining two years of the late Sen. Robert Byrd’s term and is up for a full term in 2012.

And Allison Jaslow, a former communications director for the Virginia Democratic Party and an adviser to former Wisconsin Rep. Steve Kagen last cycle, was named press secretary for Virginia Sen. Jim Webb, who has not yet announced whether he will run for a second term.

NRCC Position Shifts

Joanna Burgos, the Western regional press secretary for the National Republican Congressional Committee in the 2010 cycle, was promoted to deputy communications director. Burgos takes over for Paul Lindsay, who stepped up to communications director.

Also shifting roles is Geoff Embler, who served as a communications adviser last cycle. He’s now director of strategic initiatives. Politico first reported these two moves.

Don’t forget to tip! Send news on moves in the campaign world to shoptalk@rollcall.com.

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