UPDATE: White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs announced Wednesday that he will step down and become an political adviser to the president during his re-election campaign.


President Barack Obama's press secretary may leave the White House in a few weeks, part of a reshuffle that could see as many as eight key changes in the administration, The Washington Post reported Wednesday.

Robert Gibbs, who has been a senior voice in the White House since Obama took office nearly two years ago, is exploring a departure possibly to set up his own consulting firm and to play a lead role in his boss's 2012 re-election campaign, the Post reported, citing two Democrats familiar with the deliberations.

The move, which the daily says could take place in the coming weeks, would mark the departure of one of Obama's closest aides, an advisor who has been at his side since his days in the US Senate before running for president.

As Obama's traveling spokesman during the 2008 campaign, Gibbs gained a reputation as a rapid rebuttal specialist while also advising Obama on key strategic matters.

Speculation has swirled about a rejigging of Obama's inner circle, which would come as opposition Republicans take control of the House of Representatives and launch a bid to roll back Democratic legislation such as health care reform and reduce runaway government spending.

A Clinton-era commerce secretary, Chicago political veteran and free-trade advocate William Daley, is being tipped to serve as the new chief of staff to replace Rahm Emanuel, who left to run for mayor of Chicago.

Obama is also expected to soon name a new chief for his National Economic Council following the departure of Lawrence Summers last year. Former Clinton-era official Gene Sperling is seen as a possible replacement.

Among key Obama staffers, his political guru David Axelrod is expected to decamp to Chicago to launch a 2012 reelection campaign.

And David Plouffe, the political strategist who masterminded the vaunted state-by-state ground game in Obama's 2008 election triumph, will meanwhile start work at the White House after two years on the sidelines.

The Post reported that Obama's two deputy chiefs of staff, Jim Messina and Mona Sutphen, are also expected to leave, with Messina heading to Chicago to run the 2012 campaign.

Most of the positions are expected to go to people already working in the White House, or to former campaign loyalists, leaving Obama's administration without a lot of fresh faces, the Post reported.

Meanwhile on Tuesday, Vice President Joe Biden announced the departure later this month of his chief of staff Ron Klain, who reportedly will become president of Case Holdings, a holding company for former AOL chairman Steve Case.

US administrations routinely experience reshuffles at the halfway point of a presidential term.