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Bill Daley out at White House months earlier than expected

Transcript: Obama announces Daley's resignation
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Updated: February 11, 2012 8:13AM

White House chief of staff Bill Daley is resigning, President Obama announced on Monday, and will be departing 10 months earlier than expected. Daley will be replaced by Budget Director Jack Lew.

Daley told me he will return to Chicago sometime near the end of the month, after Obama’s Jan. 24 State of the Union speech and the federal budget rollout. Daley will become a co-chair of Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign, based in Chicago.

President Obama — who hits Chicago Wednesday for three fund-raising events — discussed the move in brief comments from the White House, flanked by Daley and Lew.

“I didn’t accept Bill’s decision right away. In fact, I asked him to take a couple of days to make sure that he was sure about this. But in the end, the pull of the hometown we both love — a city that’s been synonymous with the Daley family for generations — was too great. Bill told me that he wanted to spend more time with his family, especially his grandchildren, and he felt it was the right decision,” Obama said.

Daley offered his resignation letter, dated Jan. 3, after returning from a holiday vacation in Mexico. Daley wrote to Obama, “I have been honored to be a small part of your administration. It is time for me to go back to the city I love.”

Daley, a former commerce secretary in the Clinton administration and brother of former Mayor Richard M. Daley, followed Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel in the chief of staff job after Emanuel stepped down to run for mayor.

A former JPMorgan Chase Bank executive when Obama tapped him in January 2010, Daley was hired in part to be a bridge between the White House, the business community and the Republicans in Congress — a job that eventually ceased to exist as relations continued to fray, especially with Republicans.

Daley was not especially close to Obama but shared in common friendships with political strategist David Axelrod and Emanuel.

By clearing out in a few weeks rather than staying through what is expected to be a tough re-election battle, Daley leaves while the Obama administration is on a high note. Axelrod told me Daley steps down after a “long and challenging” year but during a period where “arrows [are] pointing up.”

Last year, Daley was put in an uncomfortable position within the White House — he was the target of internal sniping and infighting that led to a series of Washington stories. Some reports were fed by staffers who preferred Emanuel’s frenzied, chaotic micromanagement to Daley’s corporate style. Other stories came from Capitol Hill, where Daley had a frosty relationship with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).

The beginning of the end for Daley started in October, when he gave a candid interview with Politico’s Roger Simon, where he blamed Democrats as well as Republicans in Congress. Later in October, Daley told NBC5 Chicago that he was going to stay only through the November 2012, election.

In November, Daley was demoted and Obama tapped Pete Rouse, who was Obama’s Illinois Senate chief of staff, to run day-to-day operations. Daley continued to handle the broader management and strategic chores, with Obama in the Situation Room and for the Presidential Daily Brief and, at the end of the day, huddling with Obama for the “Daily Wrap.”

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