I tend to agree with somebody who earlier asked if the White House was treating the entire week of the New Hampshire primary as “take out the trash Friday.” Word came out on the eve of the first primary voting that Bill Daley would be making an early exit stage left and heading back to Chicago. He will be replaced by Jack Lew.

William Daley is stepping down as White House chief of staff and budget director Jack Lew is taking over the President Obama’s team as it heads into a tough election year, senior administration officials say.

Daley gave his letter of resignation to the president in a private meeting in the Oval Office last week, recounting the administration’s successes of his one year on the job and saying it was time for him to return to his hometown of Chicago.

President Obama made the news official this afternoon in a brief appearance in the state dining room of the White House, where he told reporters in somber tones that he is sorry to see Daley leave.

“There’s no question I will deeply miss having Bill at my side here at the White House,” Obama said. “But Chicago is only a phone call away.”

After accepting Daley’s resignation last week, the president said, he asked for advice on a replacement.

“He told me there was one clear choice,” Obama said, “and I believe he’s right.”
Lew was the first and only choice for the job, aides to the president say.

I’m still not seeing any really firm reasons for the departure, considering that Daley had previously said he planned on staying on through the entire reelection effort. Steve Benen (so take that for what it’s worth) is guesstimating that Daley simply was “too difficult to work with” in terms of congressional leaders, including Harry Reid. While fun, I’m not sure we can believe alternate rumors that Daley was asked to play the Mad Hatter at the Obama’s secret tea party in 2009.

Daley’s own stated reason?

“It is time to get back to the city I love,”

Ah yes… Chicago, Illinois. The city so nice they say it with vice.

My first reaction was that it was all about the timing. I mean, this is an election year after all. You need to get back to Chicago early to map out the nine different places you’re going to vote in November, and that doesn’t just happen by itself. But that really doesn’t cut the mustard either. OK… it’s fair enough to say that his prickly character was causing problems with congressional leadership. It’s a valid reason in and of itself. But if that’s all there is to it, wouldn’t you give yourself a longer runway to ease in a new leadership structure and feather the nest back home? Why dash something like this out in the midst of a hectic news cycle? I can’t help but wonder if there isn’t more here that we’re not catching wind of yet.

Your thoughts?

Update (Allahpundit): Chuck Todd sums it up well, I think: Daley was brought in for two reasons, to work with the new House Republican majority and to improve White House relations with the business community. How’d that work out?

Via the Examiner, here’s a golden Jack Lew moment from last February, insisting that Obama’s new budget wouldn’t add to the debt. Even Politifact couldn’t spin that one. Exit question: Why does The One keep losing chiefs of staff?

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