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Political Notebook

Obama shifts staff, seeks Chicago space as he preps for reelection

Former president George H.W. Bush welcomed former vice president Dan Quayle yesterday in Texas to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the start of operations to liberate Kuwait from Saddam Hussein. Former president George H.W. Bush welcomed former vice president Dan Quayle yesterday in Texas to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the start of operations to liberate Kuwait from Saddam Hussein. (Bob Levey/Associated Press)
January 21, 2011

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WASHINGTON — President Obama is shifting senior White House staffers to his hometown of Chicago and opening a campaign headquarters there as he steps up preparations for the formal launch of his reelection bid this spring.

The moves, widely reported for weeks though confirmed by the White House for the first time yesterday, open a new chapter in Obama’s presidency; he will soon juggle dual roles of candidate and president for the remainder of his first term.

As aides ramped up preparations for 2012, outgoing White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters that the president will soon file papers with the Federal Election Commission to formally declare his candidacy.

Officials say fund-raising and grass-roots organizing will begin in March or April.

“We’ve made progress on getting the economy back in order, and I think the president wants to continue to do that,’’ Gibbs said.

Thus, Obama is starting to execute a campaign plan that’s been in the works for months.

Obama’s deputy chief of staff Jim Messina will leave the White House to serve as campaign manager.

Aides said he is looking for office space in downtown Chicago and reaching out to potential campaign donors and consultants.

White House social secretary Juliana Smoot and Democratic National Committee executive director Jennifer O’Malley Dillon, a native of Franklin, Mass., will serve as deputy campaign managers. Both are veterans of the 2008 campaign, with Smoot having served as finance director and Dillon focusing on battleground states.

As the campaign approaches, the White House plans to close its political affairs office and move its functions to the DNC.

White House political director Patrick Gaspard will join the DNC as executive director; former Virginia governor Tim Kaine will continue to serve as the committee’s chairman.

David Plouffe, Obama’s campaign manager in 2008, recently joined the White House; senior adviser David Axelrod plans to join the campaign in Chicago, and Gibbs is to serve as a consultant.

Dillon, a Tufts University graduate, started in politics by working on Scott Harshbarger’s unsuccessful campaign for Massachusetts governor in 1998.

She worked on the 2004 and 2008 presidential bids of former senator John Edwards. Dillon came over to Obama’s campaign and directed his operations in 22 battleground states.

“The president could not have done better than to tap Jen to help lead his reelection effort,’’ said Kaine in a statement.

— Globe staff and wires

House conservatives aim to further cut US programs WASHINGTON — House conservatives vowed yesterday to slash domestic programs well beyond the already steep spending cuts promised by GOP leaders in the midterm election campaign that put Republicans in control of the chamber.

A proposal unveiled by the Republican Study Committee, whose conservative members make up about three-fourths of the House GOP conference, called for bringing domestic agency budgets down to 2006 levels in place when Republicans last controlled Congress. That’s about a $175 billion cut from current levels and roughly $90 billion more than the cuts promised by Republicans last fall.

Behind the scenes, conservatives are pressuring GOP leaders to deliver on a promise to immediately pass legislation cutting Cabinet budgets by $100 billion this fiscal year, which began Oct. 1 and is already one-third over.

The committee proposed eliminating several programs outright, including the Legal Services Corp., which provides legal help to people who can’t afford a lawyer; Amtrak subsidies; community development grants popular with local officials, and economic aid to Egypt. It advocated a five-year pay freeze for federal workers and cutting the federal work force by 15 percent through attrition.

“The pledge, the $100 billion, is simply a start,’’ freshman Representative Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina said. “We want more.’’

— Associated Press

White House visitors get a Michelle Obama surprise WASHINGTON — Michelle Obama marked the second anniversary of her husband’s inauguration by surprising visitors to the White House.

Obama, along with dog Bo, greeted visitors taking public tours of the White House yesterday.

Her anniversary appearance is becoming a tradition — she also greeted tour groups last January, on the one-year mark of Barack Obama’s inauguration. Michelle Obama’s office says the appearance is part of her efforts to open up the White House to the public.

— Associated Press