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Obama could pick new press secretary by week's end

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Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 27, 2011; 9:47 AM

President Obama could tap a new White House press secretary by the end of this week, outgoing spokesman Robert Gibbs said Wednesday.

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The candidates, according to Democrats familiar with the process, include two veteran party operatives who don't currently work at the White House: former Democratic National Committee spokeswoman Karen Finney and Doug Hattaway, who served as spokesman for Al Gore's 2000 presidential campaign and then for Hillary Rodham Clinton's 2008 quest for the Democratic nomination.

Several internal candidates are also being considered, including deputy press secretary Bill Burton, deputy communications director Jennifer Psaki and Jay Carney, the vice president's communications director, the sources said.

The choice of a new press secretary will be another step in a reshuffle of White House staff that began two months ago and is not yet complete. If Hattaway or Finney is selected, it would add another outsider to the Obama's team, a few weeks after the president tapped William Daley as the White House chief of staff.

Daley and White House senior adviser David Plouffe, who recently joined the West Wing staff, are interviewing the press secretary candidates.

Burton and Psaki were heavily involved in Obama's 2008 campaign, while Carney is a former reporter at Time magazine.

No matter which candidate is tapped, his or her arrival will be a major shift at the White House, where Gibbs has not only briefed reporters but served as a close and influential adviser to Obama for the past two years. Gibbs also worked for the Obama during his 2004 Senate campaign. None of the candidates being considered have similar history with the president.

Gibbs, who briefed reporters on the plane with Obama during Wednesday's trip to Wisconsin, would not discuss which candidate Obama is leaning toward, saying only that the president is "actually quite close" to a final decision.

Obama today

President Obama will continue selling his State of the Union proposals Thursday. But unlike his trip to Wisconsin on Wednesday, in which his return to the White House was slowed dramatically by the snowstorm-generated traffic, Obama's next effort will be to reach out to constituents online.

On Thursday afternoon, he will take questions submitted by Youtube users that will be asked by Steve Grove, who is head of news and politics for the site.

The idea is not new; Obama took questions from Youtube users about health care last year. So far, 139,635 questions have been submitted by users of the site for Thursday's session.

The president is virtually guaranteed to face a question about legalizing marijuana, which many users of the site's users either submitted as a question or voted for to be asked of the president.

Advocates for legalizing marijuana have similarly tried to dominate past White House online efforts.

baconp@washpost.com


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