Top White House staffer David Axelrod indicated Sunday that the first stages of President Obama's 2012 re-election effort will start in the coming months, with Mr. Axelrod himself leaving the administration to begin the work.
"Sometime in the ... late winter or early spring I'll be ... coming back here to Chicago and beginning to work on that project," said Mr. Axelrod, a White House senior adviser.
Mr. Axelrod was a top strategist in Mr. Obama's successful 2004 Senate campaign and in his 2008 presidential victory, including the come-from-behind defeat of the consensus favorite, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.
The adviser's announcement on "Fox News Sunday" follows recent speculation about whether Mr. Obama would be the Democrats' best candidate in 2012, considering the party's major losses in the midterm elections and the administration's failure to improve the lagging U.S. economy and help create more jobs.
Despite a rough first two years, Mr. Obama still appears to be the Democratic front-runner. Mrs. Clinton has said repeatedly she will not run in 2012 or 2016.
Since the Nov. 4 elections in which Republicans picked up 61 House and six Senate seats, along with big gains on state levels, political analysts have repeatedly pointed out that Republican Ronald Reagan and Democrat Bill Clinton, like Mr. Obama, suffered big defeats in their first midterm elections and had approval ratings at the time of less than 45 percent. Yet both won a second term.
Even former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a potential 2012 Republican presidential candidate, remarked on the president's enduring strength Sunday and predicted the economy will improve over the next two years.
"He's not beaten," he said on NBC's "Meet the Press." "This president has enormous capacity to recover. I think the economy will actually get marginally better over the next year, and he and the House Republicans will fight over who did it."
Mr. Axelrod's move to Chicago would allow him to return to his and Mr. Obama's hometown and live full time with his family.
The departure of Mr. Axelrod, a reporter-turned-political strategist, would mark the latest high-ranking administration official to leave the White House, though not, in his instance, Mr. Obama's employment.
White House Budget Director Peter Orszag left in August, followed in September by Christina Romer, chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, then in October by White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. Lawrence H. Summers, director of the White House's National Economic Council, is returning to Harvard after this year.
Mr. Axelrod will be replaced at the White House by David Plouffe, the chief Obama campaign manager in 2008 and partner with Mr. Axelrod at the Chicago-based AKP&D Message and Media political consulting firm, National Journal reported Sunday.
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