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President Obama’s Change at the Top: Out Goes Rahm, In Comes Rouse

President Obama and Pete Rouse

President Obama and senior adviser Pete Rouse bump fists at the White House in April 2009. Photo by Pete Souza/White House via Getty Images.

The Morning Line

When President Obama takes to the East Room of the White House at 11:05 am EDT to heap praise on Rahm Emanuel’s tenure as chief of staff and welcome his senior adviser, Pete Rouse, into that top job, it may not be as dramatic a change as it appears to be.

To be sure, Emanuel’s well-documented, brash, hard-charging, wicked smart and ruthlessly savvy approach will stand in contrast to Rouse, also known as the “101st Senator” from his days serving Sen. Tom Daschle on Capitol Hill.

But don’t let the stylistic differences, as important as they are, fool you. President Obama is not electing for a big shake up with this change in personnel. He is, instead, moving one of his most trusted advisers who has been at his side since his election to the Senate in November 2004 into the role of managing the West Wing on a daily basis.

The president was clearly not keen on hiring an outsider in an effort to quiet chattering class critics who think this White House is far too insular. His comfort level with Rouse is unquestioned, and Rouse’s lower profile may help smooth over some of the administration’s perceived rougher edges.

From the Washington Post’s Anne Kornblut:

“Rouse, 64, will take the helm at a difficult moment. He will inherit a White House in flux, as the first wave of senior advisers is leaving. And with a sagging economy, tepid poll numbers and November’s midterm elections all weighing on the White House, Rouse must help devise a new direction for the administration – while wrestling the competing factions that tug at any president.”

“The question being debated in and around the White House is whether Rouse — whose calm demeanor resembles that of Obama — will be tasked with managing that challenge for a few months, as his ‘interim’ title suggests, or permanently. White House officials are divided on whether Obama will want to hand over the second half of his term to an insider or turn to someone new after the elections.”

One key thing to watch from the president Friday is how much he chooses to put his weight behind Emanuel’s mayoral candidacy. He has said in the past that he thinks Emanuel would make an “excellent” mayor of the city of Chicago.

Emanuel represented a north side Chicago district in the House from 2003 to 2008 and clearly has a formidable fundraising network to match his political ties in the Second City. But his ascension to the mayoralty is far from assured.

The New York Times’ Monica Davey takes a smart look at the assets and liabilities of an Emanuel candidacy.

Immediately after stepping down as chief of staff this morning, Emanuel is expected to head back to Chicago to begin a listening tour of voters as he begins his campaign in earnest for the February 22 primary.


Former professional wrestling executive Linda McMahon caused a bit of an uproar Thursday for comments she made on the minimum wage.

The Republican Senate nominee was in West Hartford, Conn., to accept the endorsement of the National Federal of Independent Businesses when a reporter asked McMahon if she supported the group’s opposition to increasing the minimum wage.

Daniela Altimari of the Hartford Courant reports McMahon responded: “We ought to review how much it ought to be, and whether or not we ought to have increases in the minimum wage.”

Altimari notes that McMahon was unable to answer questions about what Connecticut’s minimum wage is or “whether any employees at World Wrestling Entertainment, the firm that she and her husband built, earned minimum wage.”

Some news outlets reported that McMahon’s comments indicated she was open to the possibility of lowering the minimum wage.

Ted Mann of the New London Day took that angle: “Most notably, McMahon said she believed Congress should consider lowering the federal minimum wage in times of economic distress for small businesses, such as the current recession.”

McMahon’s campaign has pushed back on such headlines, saying reporters were guilty of “creative interpretation.”

That led Mann to release a transcript of the press conference that shows he asked a question about “reducing” the minimum wage with McMahon responding, “We ought to look at all of those issues in terms of what mandates are being placed on businesses and can they afford them.”


In the unlikely event that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton decides to challenge President Obama for the Democratic nomination in 2012, she would enter the race as the underdog, a far cry from three years ago when she was the clear front-runner to become the party’s standard-bearer in 2008.

A Gallup poll released Thursday found that 52 percent of Democrats would support the president, while 37 percent would back Clinton.

Gallup’s editor in chief, Frank Newport, broke down some of the key findings of the survey in a statement:

“Obama’s strengths among Democrats in the hypothetical matchup with Clinton lie with college graduates and liberals, the latter of whom make up about 36% of this sample of 859 Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents. Clinton does better among less well-educated Democrats and bests Obama among conservatives, who make up 22% of Democrats. Clinton does slightly better among women than among men.”

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