TODAY   |  October 01, 2010

Why are Obama’s aides stepping down?

David Gregory, host of NBC’s “Meet the Press,” says that while staff resignations are common in a presidential term, Obama is spinning the departures of Rahm Emanuel, Larry Summers and others as a new opportunity for change going into the midterm elections.

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This content comes from a Full-Text Transcript of the program.

LAUER: All right, Savannah Guthrie at the White House this morning. Savannah , as always, thanks very much. David Gregory is moderator of " Meet the Press ." David , good morning to you.

DAVID GREGORY reporting: Good morning, Matt.

LAUER: So this is not unexpected; we've been talking about this for days or weeks now.

GREGORY: Right.

LAUER: But how will it change the operation of the White House starting tomorrow?

GREGORY: Well, I think there's going to be a kind of return to the campaign landscape and the campaign architecture. Some of those people, like a Pete Rouse , a different kind of temperament, a lot like Obama in some ways, who deal with some of the dysfunction within the White House where that presents itself and start to get the president into a mode where he's going to have to deal with a different kind of Congress , either a Republican Congress or at least a Congress where there's going to be a lot more Republicans than there are now.

LAUER: Right. Savannah says that Pete Rouse did not lobby for this job. Would he take it if he were offered it?

GREGORY: Oh, I think he'd have to probably take a very serious look at it, especially if the president leaned on him and said, 'Look, we really need you right now.' Remember, his strength working with Senator Daschle , majority leader at the time, was in dealing with the Republicans when they were in power, confounding their critics, getting a lot done. This may be the kind of give-and-take that the president's in come November.

LAUER: A lot of departures recently, and planned departures, David . We've got Christina Romer , Larry Summers , David Axelrod is taking off, Peter Orszag has already taken off, now Rahm Emanuel . Is this fairly commonplace for this stage of a presidency, or are we seeing something else here?

GREGORY: I think it is fairly common for this stage of a presidency, but I do think you see the president getting out in front of what could be a very difficult November in the midterm race to send a message to the public, to independent voters, to his own base to say, 'Look, we are going to make some changes in terms of how we deal with certain policy, but also how we communicate some policy as well.' And the president's going to have to have a need for some course correction as he makes that important course correction toward a midterm race and beyond that, which is the beginning of his re-elect campaign. And some of these key figures are the ones who were the very best when they were running for president.

LAUER: All right, come with me out to California for a second now. Let's talk about the governor's race out there and drama. Here we go. We've got Meg Whitman now answering allegations that she hired an illegal immigrant as a housekeeper some years ago. She denies them vehemently, saying she knew nothing about it. And she has now offered, David , to take a lie detector test to prove her innocence. I can't remember the last time I heard something like that in a major campaign.

GREGORY: It's kind of a sign of what's going on this year. I mean, this has gotten very personal and very ugly in California in a tight race where there's a lot of money washing around that race where Meg Whitman has raised the specter of Jerry Brown being a liar, including former President Clinton in that. So this has gone back and forth. It's a distraction. Negative advertising like this tends to bring both candidates down. And in this case this could be an ongoing story...

LAUER: Right.

GREGORY: ...and a very difficult one, especially in a state like California .

LAUER: Yeah, so here we go. In one week we have one candidate offering to take a lie detector test , another candidate for governor offering to take out a reporter. I can't wait to hear what happens next week.

GREGORY: This is some election.

LAUER: David Gregory . David ...

GREGORY: Right. Still weeks to go.