WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama has recast his White House team for the second half of his term, giving top jobs to a pair of Clinton-era veterans in a signal to business leaders and independent voters that he is resolved to steer a more centrist course following two years of intense partisan clashes.
Obama announced Thursday that he is installing William Daley as his new chief of staff, entrusting the White House operation and perhaps the future of his presidency to a former commerce secretary who has warned that pressing a liberal agenda risks scaring away an all-important bloc of moderate voters.
Obama today will name Gene Sperling as his chief economic adviser, turning again to a Clinton alumnus who has experience working with a Republican majority, the reality that now confronts Obama with the GOP controlling the House of Representatives.
Sperling, until now a counselor to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, will move into the same job he held under former President Bill Clinton from 1997-2001, director of the National Economic Council. He will replace Lawrence Summers, who is returning to Harvard University.
With former Obama campaign manager David Plouffe starting work as a senior White House adviser next week, the president’s new leadership team is largely set for what is expected to be a volatile two years, culminating in the 2012 presidential election.
One remaining spot to be filled is that of White House press secretary. Robert Gibbs will step down next month to become a private consultant and the White House is casting about for a successor.
Daley, 62, is Obama’s third chief of staff in two years. He follows another Chicagoan, Rahm Emanuel, who left in October to run for mayor of the city, and Pete Rouse, who is stepping aside to serve as a senior counselor.
Obama’s move is in keeping with a turn toward the political center following the walloping his party got in the 2010 midterm elections, in which Democrats lost control of the House.
Since then, Obama has abandoned his previously held position on tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, struck deals with Republicans and attempted to repair a frayed relationship with the business community.
In picking Daley, an executive at JPMorgan Chase, Obama is cementing this new approach.
Daley wrote an influential op-ed piece late in 2009 that cautioned Democrats not to veer too far left.