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Bill Daley's evolving White House role: A CEO adding a COO

WASHINGTON–White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley’s role is changing; he’s handing day-to-day operations over to presidential counselor Pete Rouse; think of Daley as the CEO of the White House with Rouse now the Chief Operating Officer.

The Wall Street Journal’s Carol Lee broke the story about “the recalibration of Mr. Daley’s portfolio, agreed to by Mr. Obama.” The report triggered a Washington guessing game Tuesday about Daley. In a White House with plenty of work to go around, Rouse’s role evolved in part because he was not being utilized all the ways he could be, I’ve gleaned from talking to White House and other sources.

The change was made at Daley’s suggestion as the White House, one year from election day, faces 52 tough weeks ahead.

Rouse’s role, I gather from sources, is to add discipline and structure to the operation. He will tee up decision making for Daley and help streamline the process.

Four people are in Obama’s inner ring: Daley, Rouse, who holds the singular title of counselor to the president and senior advisors David Plouffe and Valerie Jarrett. Plouffe and Jarrett each have line responsibilities, where until this week, Rouse did not. Plouffe handles politics and communications and Jarrett’s portfolio includes the Office of Public Engagement and intergovernmental affairs.

Daley at Monday’ senior staff meeting formalized a job Rouse that he had been filling for many weeks–a role, I’m told, he also played at times for Rahm Emanuel when he was Obama’s chief of staff. The impatient Emanuel would turn to Rouse for help in coming up with a solution when he did not have the time or bandwidth to deal with a problem.

Rouse, who served as interim chief of staff after Emanuel left to run for Chicago mayor, was Obama’s senate chief of staff and before that held the same position for former Sen. Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) Rouse wrote the strategy plan that helped vault Obama from the Senate to the White House.

Rouse is an insider’s insider–an internal coordinator– who almost never surfaces in public and rarely travels with the president. Daley already handles external affairs, accompanied Obama to the G-20 in France last week and is expected to be with him at the APEC meeting in Hawaii this weekend.

Of Rouse’s strengths, a main one at this time–with ferocious GOP opposition in Congress– is his longstanding relations on Capital Hill. It’s no secret now that Daley’s relations with lawmakers, especially with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nv.), need improvement. Daley and the number two Senate leader–Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.)–have a strong working partnership.

Daley is not the obsessive Emanuel who worked out in the House gym and would be phoning lawmakers–even if they complained later about his browbeating calls. A rap on Daley is that some lawmakers feel out of the loop.

Rouse steps up as the White House is focusing more and more on issuing streams of executive orders–taking actions that do not need congressional approval. On any day in the White House there are many voices who want to be heard: cabinet members, staffers and members of Congress. Rouse will be the listener.

Daley “retains obviously all of his authority and ultimate responsibility for the White House operations and White House staff,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said at Tuesday’s briefing. “… it’s less about transferring duties than it is about adding responsibilities without subtracting any from anybody else.”

Unlike Emanuel, who thrives in chaos, Daley likes a more corporate structure. Rouse is getting a more defined role so he and Daley each can play to their respective strengths.