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Gibbs unlikely to become DNC chair, White House says

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By Philip Rucker and Anne E. Kornblut
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, October 2, 2010; 1:15 PM

White House and senior Democratic aides pushed back against a report Saturday that suggested White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs could become Democratic National Committee chairman next year as President Obama gears up for his reelection campaign.

The online version of Politico, citing unidentified "senior officials," reported that Democratic insiders are "taking the temperature of some top party donors" about replacing DNC Chairman Timothy Kaine with Gibbs in 2011.

Senior administration and Democratic officials sought to squelch the report, saying the idea may have been put out as a trial balloon but that there was no real plan underway. One official said the idea of Gibbs moving to the DNC has been discussed informally, but not in any high-level meetings and was something of an "out-of-the-box" idea. A second official said it has been "vaguely" discussed but is "not currently under active consideration."

Asked whether the White House is at all dissatisfied with Kaine's performance, a senior administration official said "no."

For months, Gibbs has been expected to leave the press secretary position for another post within the administration, perhaps as a senior adviser in the White House. One possibility has been as successor to senior adviser David Axelrod, who plans to depart for Chicago in coming months to prepare for Obama's reelection campaign.

Possible replacements for Gibbs as press secretary include deputy press secretary Bill Burton, assistant to the president for special projects Stephanie Cutter and Vice President Biden's press secretary, Jay Carney.

After Politico's report surfaced, Gibbs tweeted: "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."

A top aide to Kaine said he had not heard the Gibbs rumor and pointed out that while Kaine serves at the pleasure of Obama, the chairmanship is a four-year term that expires after the 2012 election.

Kaine, a former Virginia governor, was one of Obama's earliest supporters when he ran for president and Democratic officials say he has a close relationship with the president. Kaine has overseen the DNC's $50 million campaign for this year's midterm elections. Politico's report suggested that if he left the DNC, he could be appointed to a Cabinet position.

If Gibbs moved to the DNC, sources said, he would bring several attributes: experience speaking on television and a close relationship with Obama. But they cautioned that he may not be the best fit for a job that requires a lot of fundraising, cross-country travel and building relationships with a vast array of constituencies. For instance, Gibbs has had a fraught relationship with the party's liberal base, admonishing it recently as the "professional left."

ruckerp@washpost.com kornbluta@washpost.com

Staff writer Karen Tumulty contributed to this report.


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