TODAY   |  October 01, 2010

Emanuel quits, to be replaced by Rouse

Rahm Emanuel is leaving his position as White House chief of staff to run for mayor of Chicago. He will be replaced by Peter Rouse, a longtime Obama adviser. NBC’s Savannah Guthrie reports.

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MATT LAUER, co-host: But right now we go to Washington and the shake-up within President Obama 's inner circle. The president will announce this morning that his chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel , will step down to run for the mayor's office in Chicago . NBC 's Savannah Guthrie is at the White House with the details. Savannah , good morning to you.

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE reporting: Good morning, Matt. Well, Rahm Emanuel will be replaced on an interim basis by a White House insider, Pete Rouse , a senior adviser who's been with the president since his Senate days, and for now the West Wing is losing its most colorful and controversial character.

Mr. ROBERT GIBBS (White House Press Secretary): I -- we all have deadlines, I understand that.

GUTHRIE: The White House press secretary tried in vain Thursday to keep a lid on the worst kept secret in Washington .

Mr. GIBBS: I'm not going to get into that. Without getting into what the announce will be. I am not going to move a whole lot on what I've already said.

GUTHRIE: As expected, Rahm Emanuel will step down as White House chief of staff today to satisfy a lifelong professional goal of running for mayor of Chicago .

Mr. RAHM EMANUEL: We all know Chicago is a city of big shoulders.

GUTHRIE: He'll be replaced by Pete Rouse , the president's senior adviser and longtime confidant. Rouse ran Mr. Obama 's Senate office and before that was chief of staff to Senator Tom Daschle . The consummate Capitol insider, Rouse is not one to hit the Washington party circuit or woo the press.

Ms. ANITA DUNN (Former White House Communications Director): Pete is a great strategist who doesn't blow his own horn, who doesn't step forward to take credit, but who, at the end of the day , I think many people feel outmaneuvered the Republicans in the Senate for 10 years.

GUTHRIE: Rouse is as low-key and low-profile as his predecessor was loud-mouthed and larger than life...

President BARACK OBAMA: As a young man he had a serious accident. He lost part of his middle finger. As a result of this, this rendered him practically mute.

GUTHRIE: ...a reputation parodied on " Saturday Night Live ."

GUTHRIE: Known by some as " Rahmbo " for his take-no-prisoners style, Emanuel worked in the Clinton White House in the '90s and once famously sent a dead fish to a pollster who delivered bad news. Later elected to multiple terms as a Chicago -area congressman, he was hired by President-elect Obama after the 2008 campaign for his inside- Washington game. He has been key to shepherding through the health care law and financial regulatory reform. But with the president's approval rating now stuck at 46 percent and Democrats likely to sustain big losses in the midterms, the White House opted not to bring in an outsider with fresh thinking.

Mr. ED GILLESPIE (Republican Strategist): They would benefit probably from some new blood, but I don't think it's the best circumstances under which to bring in, you know, a fresh set of eyes and a new perspective. They're probably right to elevate from within in the current circumstances.

GUTHRIE: Well, Pete Rouse is here just temporarily for this chief of staff job. It's not a job he wanted or lobbied for, so in the end, Matt , the president still has big shoes to fill.