November 8th, 2011
03:19 PM ET
The announcement that Pete Rouse, a long time Obama aide and Hill veteran adored by many White House staffers, is assuming more responsibilities makes official what multiple sources say is a shift that's been underway for some time. Senior administration officials say yesterday White House Chief of Staff William Daley told senior staff that Rouse will act as "COO" – chief operating officer to Daley's CEO.
One senior administration official is emphatic that Daley isn't giving up anything: Pete Rouse will do more management and fill a hole Daley needs filled. Another says this new assignment is not a realignment, it’s just acknowledging reality that Daley's greatest strength isn't day-to-day management, it’s working with principals to resolve big picture issues. Yet another senior administration official confides Daley has been "miserable" with the power sharing arrangement in the White House and wanted things to change for some time.
Democrats familiar with the decision to realign duties say it grew out of a need to correct organizational challenges and restructure for the campaign.
According to multiple Democrats familiar with the situation when Daley came on board, many staffers felt Daley brought an air of professionalism and much needed calm to the White House. Daley was considered a commanding presence, well mannered, easy with conversation and often the “adult” in the room. But Daley walked into a management structure he didn't design. After former Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel departed to run for Chicago Mayor, the President tasked Rouse with reorganizing the White House staff. Then Daley came on board with almost no new staff of his own, making him a manager unable to pick or assign his own team.
Additionally, informed Democrats inside and close to the administration say there are multiple power centers inside the West Wing, which has caused further complications. These Democrats say David Plouffe – the trusted manager of the 2008 campaign and now a senior advisor – has a great deal of influence over decision-making, particularly as the President moves further into campaign mode. Valerie Jarrett, who is both advisor and close friend of the first family, has her own sphere of influence liaising with the business community, which could be considered Daley's natural terrain, who was a former Commerce Secretary and senior executive at JP Morgan.
Those conflicting spheres of influence seem unlikely to change.
Sources say this new delineation of roles should ease that confusion. Multiple administration officials say Rouse is skilled at internal management, staffing issues, and organizational decision making. This frees up Daley to address the major issues facing the White House, such as liaising with power players – labor leaders, CEOs, and groups causing headaches for the White House – which will demand increasing attention during campaign season.
One source close to administration says this "plays to the strengths of each." In an effort to tamp down news reports that made the changes sounds like a major power shift inside the west wing, one official said, “Bill has asked Pete to take on an expanded operational and coordination role with the White House staff. It’s a move designed to improve internal communication and maximize performance.”
This past weekend Daley accompanied the President to the G20 Summit. He's made clear he will stay on through the election.