5 staffers who could leave White House
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The White House insists a difficult midterm election result won’t lead to a major shake-up of top presidential staff.

The post-midterm culling is something of a second-term tradition, epitomized by former President George W. Bush’s immediate removal of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld after Democrats seized the majority in the House and Senate in 2006.


The White House insists President Obama has no similar plans.

“At this point I don’t anticipate that that will happen later this week,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said on Monday.

Still, there is reason to think Obama’s White House could use some change, given the likelihood the president will be blamed for Democratic losses.

Only 45 percent of voters in an ABC News / Washington Post survey view the president as a good manager, and just 46 percent describe him as a strong leader.

Two-thirds of registered voters in an NBC News / Wall Street Journal poll released Monday say Obama should undertake either “a great deal of change” or “quite a bit of change” to his leadership style.

And Earnest on Monday said change wasn’t out of the question — it just shouldn’t be expected immediately.

“Traditionally after a midterm election it’s not uncommon for members of the president’s staff to use the opportunity of that election or its aftermath to leave the White House and sort of engage in a transition,” Earnest said. “So I would anticipate that there will be members, colleagues of mine here at the White House, who will do exactly that.”

Here are five Obama staffers to keep an eye on:

John Podesta

Podesta, a longtime Democratic aide who served as former President Clinton’s final chief of staff, has made clear he intends to leave the administration.

He’s reportedly held high-level strategy meetings with Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonBudowsky: Why GOP donors flock to Manchin and Sinema Countering the ongoing Republican delusion Republicans seem set to win the midterms — unless they defeat themselves MORE’s nascent, unofficial presidential campaign. While some environmental activists have expressed hope Podesta could remain in the West Wing, his departure seems the most assured. 

Podesta has been credited with many of the White House’s regulatory and executive action successes in 2014. Recently tabbed Ebola czar Ron Klain could be a potential replacement candidate.

Dan Pfeiffer

Among the president’s most loyal aides, Pfeiffer has moved steadily up the White House ranks and now serves alongside Valerie Jarrett as a senior adviser to Obama. 

But the job has traditionally had a two-year shelf life in the Obama administration, with both David Axelrod (in 2011) and David Plouffe (in 2013) departing shortly after the annual State of the Union address. 

During an appearance last week on Bloomberg Television, Pfeiffer offered no denial when host Mark Halperin said he was “expected to leave the White House relatively soon.”

Jennifer Palmieri

Palmieri, White House communications director, has provided veteran leadership to a young press office grappling with a relentless barrage of second-term controversies and crises.

But Palmieri, who served in Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonMaxwell accuser testifies the British socialite was present when Epstein abuse occurred Epstein pilot testifies Maxwell was 'number two' in operation Federal judge changes his mind about stepping down, eliminating vacancy for Biden to fill MORE’s White House for all eight years, is, like Podesta, thought to be eying a spot on a Hillary Clinton presidential campaign. 

Some see communications as an area where the White House could improve.

“Communications continue to be a significant problem for this White House,” said John Hudak, a Brookings Institution fellow who studies presidential personnel.

“What the president needs to do is take back the narrative immediately, and appear in control and prepared to deal with the loses,” he said. “If he responds to it in a hem-haw, almost depressed sort of way or a way that signals giving up, that’s a signal that the [communications] shop is pretty broken and it’s time for new blood.”

Ben Rhodes

Recent reports in Politico have suggested that the president’s deputy national security adviser for strategic communications could be eyeing the exits.

Rhodes could be replaced by State Department press secretary Jen Psaki, who has spent more than a year steeped in foreign affairs and was among the finalists to replace Jay Carney as press secretary when he stepped down.

One administration official described Rhodes’s departure as unlikely, however, and Rhodes himself sounded determined in an interview with Fortune magazine last month.

“I don’t necessarily see this as a situation where I’m going to be going through the revolving door, in and out of administrations,” he said. “I happen to have found somebody who I really love to work for, who I have a really good relationship with, and it’s hard to walk away from that.”

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If the president is looking to send a message that he’s dedicated to shaking up his team, it would be hard to avoid contemplating a change at the top. In prior administrations, the removal of the chief of staff has served as a clear signal that the president understands the rebuke dealt by voters.

But White House staffers on Monday were already downplaying the significance of Democratic loses on Election Day.

“It would not be wise to draw as broad a conclusion about the outcome of this election as you would from a national presidential election, simply by virtue of the map and the states where this contest is taking place,” Earnest said.

Moreover, McDonough is widely seen as the antidote — not the cause — for many of the president’s problems. He’s well-liked on Capitol Hill, and has worked hard to cultivate relationships with lawmakers and the media.

“By all accounts people are reasonably happy with him, and I don’t think much blame for what’s going to happen is going to fall at his feet,” Hudak said. “I’d personally be surprised if he left for any reason other than he deciding he wanted to leave.”