WASHINGTON – President-elect Barack Obama on Saturday named longtime spokesman Robert Gibbs as White House press secretary and reached outside his inner circle for the post of White House communications director.
The director of communications will be Ellen Moran, the current executive director of the Washington group EMILY's List, an active supporter of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton during the Democratic presidential primary. Moran will join a team of longtime close advisers who will work closely with Obama on a daily basis.
Obama's choice of Moran was a surprise compared to Gibbs, who went to work for Obama's Senate campaign in 2004 and was communications director while Obama was in the Senate. Moran's deputy in the White House will be Dan Pfeiffer, currently the communications director for Obama's presidential transition team.
"These individuals will fill essential roles, and bring a breadth and depth of experience that can help our administration advance prosperity and security for the American people," Obama said in a statement. "This dedicated and impressive group of public servants includes longtime advisers and a talented new addition to our team, and together we will work to serve our country and meet the challenges of this defining moment in history."
Moran will head the team in charge of getting Obama's message out. As the head of EMILY's, which backs Democratic female candidates who support abortion rights, Moran has said Obama would have to work hard to win over women supporters who felt let down after Clinton's historic presidential bid fell short.
"This was the longest primary campaign in the history of the Democratic party," Moran told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in August. "Given the closeness of the outcome, the length of the race and the loyalty supporters felt to their candidates — when you have that level of investment, yes, you're going to have disappointment when you're on the losing side."
After Obama secured the Democratic nomination, EMILY's quickly moved to back his candidacy and Moran criticized GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin as being out of step with issues that most concern women.
Moran has worked for the AFL-CIO, where she coordinated worker oversight of Wal-Mart Stores Inc., which has been criticized for stifling union activity and abusing wage and hour rules. Her political experience includes planning both inaugurals for President Bill Clinton, and she has managed campaigns for governor, the U.S. Senate and House. She worked on the national campaign staff of Tom Harkin's 1992 presidential campaign.
Gibbs, 37, was born in Auburn, Ala., where his parents, Robert and Nancy, worked for Auburn University. In 1989, he graduated from Auburn High School and headed to North Carolina State University to major in political science.
Pfeiffer helped manage the press operation on the Obama campaign. Prior to that, Pfeiffer worked as Sen. Evan Bayh's communications director and Sen. Tom Daschle's deputy campaign manager in 2004. He has also worked for the Democratic Governors Association and the Gore-Lieberman campaign.