By MICHAEL FALCONE and AMY WALTER
RAHM OUT, ROUSE IN. Today marks the end of an era at the White House, albeit a two-year-old one. White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel has left his mark on the administration, but some are looking at his departure from the West Wing, which he and President Obama will make official at a news conference this morning, as a chance to hit the restart button. Rahm’s decision to leave Washington to run for mayor of Chicago has been viewed as a “welcome move for many, particularly liberals who see him as the man who murdered the public option –- or Hill Republicans who assume it was Emanuel who butchered the better bipartisan angels of Barack Obama’s nature. Or even some staffers forced to abide by his Sunday-is-just-the-workday-before-Monday ethos,” Politco’s Glenn Thrush and Kendra Marr note. But how much will Emauel’s exit really change business as usual at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue? We won’t know for a while, and the answer has a lot to do with the tone set by Pete Rouse, the senior aide who will replace Emanuel as chief of staff on an interim basis. One of the biggest open questions is whether Rouse will inhabit the job only for an “interim” basis or whether he will be tapped to stay on permanently. Some White House critics are still hoping Obama turns to someone outside his inner-circle to run the shop going forward, as opposed to Rouse, who as Press Secretary Robert Gibbs noted has been with Obama since the early days. "There is a complete loyalty and trust with somebody like Pete,” Gibbs said on Thursday. “Pete's strategic sense has played a big part in the direction of virtually every big decision that's made inside of this White House. I think the type of trust that the president and others throughout this administration have in Pete is enormous." NOTED: ABC’s Jake Tapper has learned that both President Obama and Emanuel will speak at today’s news conference, scheduled for just after 11:05 a.m. in the East Room of the White House, but Rouse will not.
ENTER THE ‘FIXER’. So who is Pete Rouse anyway? Some describe him as “the fixer,” the Washington Post’s Anne E. Kornblut reports: “While Emanuel spent nearly two years as a prominent public face of the Obama administration, Rouse sat just around the corner in the West Wing, fixing problems. A trusted adviser dating back to Obama's first days in the Senate, Rouse helped guide Obama's Washington rise. Obama once described Rouse as ‘completely ego-free.’ … Rouse, 64, will take the helm at a difficult moment. He will inherit a White House in flux, as the first wave of senior advisers is leaving. And with a sagging economy, tepid poll numbers and November's midterm elections all weighing on the White House, Rouse must help devise a new direction for the administration – while wrestling the competing factions that tug at any president.” The New York Times’ Sheryl Gay Stolberg describes Rouse, a former chief of staff to Tom Daschle, as the “anti-Rahm”: "Intensely private, Mr. Rouse is unmarried and lives alone in northwest Washington with his two cats. (He is a big cat person, friends say.) He is not given to socializing; when Mr. Daschle hosted a huge staff reunion just before he left the Senate, Mr. Rouse did not show. He is also a huge music buff; in 2008, he persuaded the surviving members of the Grateful Dead to reunite and campaign for Mr. Obama. Although he has spent much of his career in Washington, Mr. Rouse, a native of New Haven, worked early in his career in South Dakota and also in Alaska, where he was chief of staff to that state’s lieutenant governor, Terry Miller, from 1979 to 1983.”
CHICAGO-BOUND. Rahm is wasting no time launching his Chicago mayoral bid. He reportedly plans to begin putting his campaign team together over the next few days but may delay a formal roll-out until after the midterm elections. The New York Times’ Jeff Zeleny hears from a Democratic source “a campaign Web site could be online within a week. … The Democrat said Mr. Emanuel would probably rely on the political consulting firm in Chicago founded by his White House colleague Mr. Axelrod for media and consulting advice.” But Emanuel will be facing a long list of candidates who may also be jumping into the race — some have already declared while a host of others have expressed interest — as well as lingering questions about his past. Bloomberg’s John McCormick and Tim Jones report: “Emanuel, 50, earned at least $17 million in three years as an investment banker after leaving the Clinton White House, public records show. While that part of his resume didn’t hurt him when he first ran for Congress in 2002, any new bid for public office would come amid criticism of Wall Street’s excesses and a U.S. unemployment rate of 9.6 percent.”
NOT QUITTING TIME. That was message President Obama sent at one of two Democratic fundraisers where he spoke last night. “Now is not the time to quit!” the President shouted at the Gen44 Summit, a gathering of 3,000 young voters in Washington. “Our future is in our hands.” It was an extension of the president’s message earlier this week at a well-attended rally at the University of Wisconsin. ABC’s Ann Compton notes that Obama also stopped by a 50-donor candlelit dinner at the home of former White House health care messaging guru Linda Douglass. “When people are reminded this was never going to be easy,” the president told the guests, “but that when people come together, they can make a difference, you can see them get a little more pep in their step." President Obama helped Democrats raise an estimated $1.75 million last night.
PRESIDENTIAL PLANNER. Besides Friday’s main event – the announcement of Emanuel’s departure and Rouse’s promotion — President Obama has two private Oval Office meetings with cabinet officials on his agenda, ABC’s Sunlen Miller reports. The first is with Secretary of State Clinton and the second is with Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. In between the president heads to the Supreme Court where he will attend Justice Elena Kagan’s Investiture Ceremony. NOTED: The White House announced Thursday night that Obama met privately with American hiker Sarah Shourd, who was released after more than a year’s imprisonment in Iran. He also sat down with the families of two Americans, Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal, who are still being held.
ON TODAY’S “TOP LINE”: Rick Klein and Amy Walter have a conversation with two former congressman — Martin Frost, Democrat of Texas, and Tom Davis, Republican of Virginia. They also speak to Bob Cusack, Managing Editor of The Hill newspaper. Watch LIVE at 12:00 p.m. Eastern.
ON “THIS WEEK”: “Nine years after 9/11, is rising Islamophobia a threat to religious freedom and to Muslims in America. Does Islam foster extremist ideology, even violence? Where are the moderate voices?” Don’t miss a “This Week” special town hall debate: “Holy Wars: Should Americans Fear Islam?”
RUPERT’S MILLIONS. News Corp., the Rupert Murdoch-run company that owns Fox News, contributed $1 million to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the business group that has been working to put Republicans in control of Congress, Politico’s Ben Smith reports. “It was the second $1 million contribution the company has made this election cycle to a GOP-aligned group. In late June it gave that amount to the Republican Governors Association.”
THE WHITMAN CHRONICLES. Almost overnight the California governor’s race has become all about tearful press conferences, handwriting samples and lie detector tests. Celebrity lawyer Gloria Allred released a letter on Thursday that she claims proves California gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman knowingly employed an undocumented immigrant as her housekeeper. Allred said that neither Whitman nor her husband followed up with Diaz about the letter and instead allowed her to continue working for the family for six more years. At her own news conference earlier today, Whitman denied that she ever received the letter and said she did not report her long-time housekeeper to immigration officials when she learned he truth because "I didn't think it was the right thing." The former CEO of eBay and current Republican gubernatorial hopeful said did not break the law by keeping silent. "I comported with the law and the law does not require employers to turn people in.” The Brown campaign has been stoking the flames, although not getting involved directly in the controversy, but this weekend’s debate between the two candidates should be interesting.
MEANWHILE, IN PENNSYLVANIA. “How strange is this campaign year?” Politics Daily’s Jill Lawrence writes. “So strange that Pat Toomey — the diehard conservative who drove Arlen Specter out of the Republican Party — seems almost middle of the road compared with his fellow Republican Senate nominees.” Lawrence profiles the GOP candidate who is running in a tight race against Democratic candidate Joe Sestak and who speaks glowingly of the Tea Party: “If you look at what their big driving concerns are, it's a government that's grown too big, it's too much spending, it's deficits that are too large, and too much debt. Well, I've been on that page for a very long time.”
SCOTUS PREVIEW. It’s October, which means the Supreme Court’s new term begins on Monday. It’s Kagan’s first year on the bench, and ABC’s Ariane de Vogue previews what’s in store: “The term's docket features a variety of issues related to the First Amendment, the death penalty, states' rights and prosecutorial misconduct, but the docket is overshadowed by what looms in the future: potential challenges to health care legislation, same-sex marriage and immigration reform. Those issues are currently working their way through the lower courts and could reach the Supreme Court next year or beyond.”
THE NUMBER: 6%
The margin by which Florida GOP gubernatorial candidate Rick Scott is leading his Democratic Rival Alex Sink, according to a new Quinnipiac University poll out today. Scott leads Sink 49 percent to 43 percent. A few other facts from the poll: “Although Scott holds a 6-point lead in the horse race, the candidates have almost identical favorability ratings from Florida likely voters: 39 – 39 percent for Sink and 41 – 40 percent for Scott. Florida likely voters disapprove 56 – 40 percent of the job President Obama is doing.” It’s the third poll in a week that shows Scott ahead of Sink.
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R.I.P. TARP. The government's $700 billion bailout of the financial system comes to an end this Sunday, bringing to a close what ABC’s Matthew Jaffe calls “one of the most controversial programs in economic history” — and one that has found its way into the narrative of the 2010 midterm elections. More from Jaffe’s report: “Supporters say the Troubled Asset Relief Program rescued the country from another Great Depression. Critics counter that it simply handed money to the same Wall Street banks that plunged the country into recession in the first place and, moreover, it failed to help Main Street Americans. The political back-and-forth has been fierce. Republicans, led by President Bush, first pushed the program through Congress in the fall of 2008. But with the 2010 mid-term elections fast approaching, Republicans are trying to capitalize on the program's unpopularity by tying Democrats — including President Obama — to the bailout. In fact, ‘bailout’ has become the dirtiest word in politics, with Republicans and Tea Party activists especially using it to rail against government spending.”
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