Speculation Growing: White House Press Secretary Could Be Next DNC Chair

Speculation Growing: White House Press Secretary Could Be Next DNC Chair


Twitter feeds and blogger exposés are feeding an inside-the-Beltway media frenzy over the future of Robert Gibbs, the revered and, sometimes, reviled White House press secretary.  Sources speculate Gibbs is being groomed for Democratic National Committee chair as the White House political team begins ramping up 2012 Presidential re-election operations.  What has many from Capitol Hill to K Street buzzing are some of the latest breaking from reporters Mike Allen and Josh Gerstein in POLITICO:

Democratic insiders are taking the temperature of some top party donors about the possibility of naming White House press secretary Robert Gibbs as chairman of the Democratic National Committee heading into President Barack Obama’s reelection campaign in 2012, senior officials tell POLITICO. Under the scenario being tested, Tim Kaine, the current DNC chairman and former governor of Virginia, would be named to a top administration post, perhaps in the Cabinet, the officials said. Donors’ response has been positive, according to people who have been consulted.

Gibbs, prompted by the chatter, responded to the rumors on his Twitter feed just several minutes shy of two hours before the POLITICO article dropped: “I have not had any conversations about the future – it is a great honor to have the job I have right now and I am very happy doing it.” Still, obviously drawn from the ambiguity of the tweet, Gibbs is not denying or confirming that he’s under consideration.

In his sixth year as part of the “Obama inner-circle,” Gibbs is known for his signature sarcasm and disarmingly cool style at the White House press room podium.  Some of that was on display during a press conference earlier in the week in which Gibbs skillfully dodged a barrage of questions from April Ryan, America Urban Radio Network’s White House Correspondent.

“People are focused on what are we doing here, now,” said Gibbs.  “I’m happy doing what I’m doing.  I haven’t had any conversations about it. I love my job.”

“We all love our jobs,” Ryan quipped back, continuing an aggressive line of questioning on whether or not Gibbs would be heading over to South Capitol Street, SE, where the DNC is headquartered only a block away from the House of Representatives.  “I want a straight answer.”

While this isn’t the first time Ryan and Gibbs have openly sparred over White House staffing issues, the most recent occurrence highlighted Washington intrigue over Administration plans to reshuffle Democratic leadership.  Gibbs’ coyness about where he lands is only fueling the rumor mill; many insiders had already speculated months ago that the Alabama native appeared either bored or drained from press secretary duties.

“Doesn’t Gibbs’ look as though he’s ready to move on?” Sharon Toomer of BlackandBrownNews.com asked during an August conversation with Politic365.com.

It’s a move similar to former President George W. Bush’s installment of operative Ed Gillespie as Republican National Committee Chair in 2004, during his re-election bid.  Obama political advisor David Axelrod is already making plans to move back to Chicago and spearhead 2012 efforts while strategist David Plouffe will take over in Axelrod’s White House role, or as a deputy Chief of Staff.  However, some worry that Gibbs – fresh from cooling tempers over his disparaging “professional left” remark – could be a somewhat divisive figure within the party as it will need to coalesce its base of progressive activists and left-leaning bloggers.  Plus, Gibbs’ relationship with the African American press has been notably frayed in recent months, with some Black media observers criticizing the White House press office for lack of access to the first African American President.  Some point to White House Black press liaison Corey Ealon’s recent and very abrupt exit as a sign of Gibbs’ unwillingness to take Black media outlets seriously.