Update 11/22: WASHINGTON -- President-elect Barack Obama on Saturday named longtime spokesman Robert Gibbs as White House press secretary and reached outside his inner circle for the post of White House communications director.
The director of communications will be Ellen Moran, the current executive director of the Washington group EMILY's List, an active supporter of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton during the Democratic presidential primary. Moran will join a team of longtime close advisers who will work closely with Obama on a daily basis.
Obama's choice of Moran was a surprise compared to Gibbs, who went to work for Obama's Senate campaign in 2004 and was communications director while Obama was in the Senate. Moran's deputy in the White House will be Dan Pfeiffer, currently the communications director for Obama's presidential transition team.
"These individuals will fill essential roles, and bring a breadth and depth of experience that can help our administration advance prosperity and security for the American people," Obama said in a statement. "This dedicated and impressive group of public servants includes longtime advisers and a talented new addition to our team, and together we will work to serve our country and meet the challenges of this defining moment in history."
Moran will head the team in charge of getting Obama's message out. As the head of EMILY's, which backs Democratic female candidates who support abortion rights, Moran has said Obama would have to work hard to win over women supporters who felt let down after Clinton's historic presidential bid fell short.
"This was the longest primary campaign in the history of the Democratic party," Moran told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in August. "Given the closeness of the outcome, the length of the race and the loyalty supporters felt to their candidates _ when you have that level of investment, yes, you're going to have disappointment when you're on the losing side."
After Obama secured the Democratic nomination, EMILY's quickly moved to back his candidacy and Moran criticized GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin as being out of step with issues that most concern women.
Moran has worked for the AFL-CIO, where she coordinated worker oversight of Wal-Mart Stores Inc., which has been criticized for stifling union activity and abusing wage and hour rules. Her political experience includes planning both inaugurals for President Bill Clinton, and she has managed campaigns for governor, the U.S. Senate and House. She worked on the national campaign staff of Tom Harkin's 1992 presidential campaign.
Gibbs, 37, was born in Auburn, Ala., where his parents, Robert and Nancy, worked for Auburn University. In 1989, he graduated from Auburn High School and headed to North Carolina State University to major in political science.
Gibbs worked for several Southern Democrats and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee before heading to Chicago to work in Obama's U.S. Senate campaign in 2004.
Pfeiffer helped manage the press operation on the Obama campaign. Prior to that, Pfeiffer worked as Sen. Evan Bayh's communications director and Sen. Tom Daschle's deputy campaign manager in 2004. He has also worked for the Democratic Governors Association and the Gore-Lieberman campaign.
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WASHINGTON -- Two of the top qualities Robert Gibbs brings to the job of White House press secretary aren't found on his resume: He won't flinch at telling it like it is to the next president or telling it like he thinks it ought to be to the media.
Gibbs has been at the side of President-elect Barack Obama since his Senate campaign in 2004. A Southerner and tough fighter, Gibbs has been a passionate defender of Obama who can virtually channel the Illinois senator's thoughts.
"I look forward to serving both the president-elect as he works to get our economy moving again and the press to get what they need to cover that and other important stories," Gibbs told The Associated Press on Saturday.
During the presidential campaign, Gibbs, 37, served as communications director and was among the few who could frankly tell Obama what needed to improve.
He didn't hesitate to tell the media when he thought they got it wrong, either. He fiercely guarded Obama's image.
One critic called Gibbs "the bland face of brazenness" when he said Obama's decision to resign from his church amid the controversy over the Rev. Jeremiah Wright was "a deeply personal decision, not a political decision."
Others were surprised when he called Fox News' Bill O'Reilly a "bully" and asked Sean Hannity, "Are you anti-Semitic?" in response to the TV commentator's questions about Obama's relationship to William Ayers, a 1960s radical.
A former roommate who worked with Gibbs on Capitol Hill said Gibbs has been a successful press secretary because he combines top-notch political skills with a quick wit.
"That's the reason the Washington press corps is going to relate well to him," the roommate, Shar Hendrick, told the AP recently.
Gibbs was born in Auburn, Ala., where his parents worked for Auburn University. His mother, Nancy Gibbs, was active in the League of Women Voters and would take her son with her to polling places and the local courthouse. Political discussions around the dinner table were often lively.
Gibbs majored in political science at North Carolina State University, and got his start in politics in 1991 as an intern for former Rep. Glen Browder, D-Ala. Gibbs' wife, Mary Catherine Gibbs, is an attorney in Alexandria, Va. They have one son.
Browder recently told AP that he quickly realized Gibbs was not just another college student looking to spend a few months in Washington. Gibbs' ability to make a quick study of complicated issues convinced the congressman to give him a permanent job.
"Robert had a special quality even back then," Browder said. "In retrospect, it was clear Robert was destined to make his mark."
After Browder's unsuccessful Senate campaign in 1996, Gibbs worked for several Southern Democrats and for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. In 2004, he headed to Chicago to work in Obama's Senate campaign.
Obama's speech to the Democratic National Convention that year sent his fame and popularity skyrocketing. Afterwards, Gibbs frequently told reporters and political associates that he and others around Obama kept expecting the popularity to ebb, but it never did.
Gibbs was constantly with Obama over the next two years as he began laying the groundwork for a presidential bid. He was among the first to recognize the political phenomenon Obama had become, and the need to adapt and capitalize on the surging crowds he was drawing.
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Bonus: Here's a picture of Obama fist bumping with five-year-old Ethan Gibbs, Robert's son. From the Boston Globe.
Politico first reported on the Robert Gibbs choice earlier in November.
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