Thursday, January 20, 2011

Obama shifts political staff, will launch campaign in March or April

President Obama is moving his political operation outside the White House and will launch his reelection campaign in March or April.

With the biggest parts of a staff reshuffling behind him, Obama has approved some more moves for his political team, shifting his political director to the Democratic National Committee and sending two key operatives to serve as deputy campaign managers in what will be his campaign headquarters in Chicago.

In addition, we now have an official time frame for the campaign's launch. In an e-mail to members of the Democratic National Committee, Chairman Tim Kaine announced the staffing moves and said Obama's 2012 campaign "will be based in Chicago starting in March or April of this year."

Obama is effectively shutting down his political affairs office in the White House and moving his campaign staff elsewhere, in order to keep the two entities separate and avoid the turf battles and disparate messaging that sometimes occur when a sitting president is running for reelection.

He is expected to formally begin his campaign for president by filing the necessary paperwork in a couple of months. At that point, he can begin raising money for the effort and filling out his staff -- the latter which has already begun.

The staff moves, first reported by the New York Times, include moving White House Social Secretary and former campaign finance chair Julianna Smoot and Democratic National Committee executive director Jen O'Malley Dillon to Chicago to serve as deputy campaign managers.

Smoot's exit leaves a vacancy in the social secretary job for the second time in 11 months. Smoot replaced Desirée Rogers after Rogers fell victim to the gate-crashing incident at the White House.

Kaine said O'Malley Dillon will leave the DNC after the committee's meeting in February.

Patrick Gaspard, who is now the White House political director, will move to the DNC to assume Dillon's role, a senior administration official said. Political operations at the White House will be consolidated under David Plouffe, the former campaign manager who has recently arrived as senior adviser.

Obama long ago settled on Jim Messina, currently a White House deputy chief of staff, as his new campaign manager. The new leadership trio of Messina, Smoot and O'Malley Dillon all served on the president's 2008 campaign, but will be in more prominent roles in 2012.

O'Malley Dillon ran Obama's battleground states effort last time around. Prior to that, she ran former Sen. John Edwards's (D-N.C.) presidential campaign in Iowa.

"In making these transitions, I am pleased with the vital role that our DNC will play throughout the 2011 and 2012 election cycles, both advancing the President's agenda and keeping our Democratic Party strong," Kaine said.

Obama is making a rare move by hosting his reelection headquarters outside of Washington -- a further sign of his desire to keep to two operations separate.

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