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Robert Gibbs Leaving Job as White House Press Secretary

President Barack Obama's top spokesman Robert Gibbs speaks during a press briefing at the White House in Washington, DC, on January 5, 2011.

Updated 1:29 p.m. Eastern Time

Robert Gibbs is leaving his job as White House Press Secretary.

At his daily briefing Wednesday afternoon, Gibbs said serving as press secretary over the past two years has been the "opportunity of a lifetime, one that I will be forever thankful and grateful for."

"this was not an easy decision, but I think it was a very natural time period to make the decision to recharge a little bit," said Gibbs, who first went to work for Barack Obama back in 2004.

Gibbs signaled that he had become burned out by the long hours and pressure of working in Washington.

"This doesn't stop," he said in describing his life in the White House. "Only rarely does it observe holidays like Christmas, and sometimes not even that. This is a tough place to work."

President Barack Obama's top spokesman Robert Gibbs speaks during a press briefing at the White House in Washington, DC, on January 5, 2011.
"It's time to take a little break," Gibbs added. He then referenced his young son, Ethan. "There's a little boy who probably needs a ride to school every now and then."

Still, Gibbs said, it had been an "amazing privilege" to work in the White House. 

"I would not trade the worst day I've had here for many of the best days you might have in another job," he said.

Gibbs, who is 39, told CBS News Wednesday morning he plans to leave in early February -- shortly after President Obama's State of the Union Address in late January. A decision on a successor is expected within weeks.

Gibbs plans to give speeches upon leaving his post, and his income is likely to skyrocket upon leaving public service. White he is technically leaving the White House, he will remain close, and plans to serve as an outside adviser to the administration and to Mr. Obama's reelection campaign.


The president told the New York Times in an interview Wednesday morning that Gibbs will continue to be a close adviser and "will continue to shape the dialogue politically for many years to come."

In a statement, Mr. Obama hailed Gibbs' service.

"For the last six years, Robert has been a close friend, one of my closest advisers and an effective advocate from the podium for what this administration has been doing to move America forward," he said. "I think it's natural for him to want to step back, reflect and retool. That brings up some challenges and opportunities for the White House - but it doesn't change the important role that Robert will continue to play on our team."

Leading candidates to include Gibbs include Burton as well as John Earnest, another Gibbs deputy, and Jay Carney, a spokesman to Vice President Joe Biden. 

Gibbs' announcement comes amid a reshuffling of White House staff midway through the president's term. Mr. Obama is now considering successors to former Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, who left the White House to run for mayor of Chicago. He is widely believed to have narrowed his shortlist down to two: current interim chief of staff Pete Rouse and former Commerce Secretary William Daley.

Robert Gibbs addresses the White House press corps on the day he announced he is leaving the White House, January 5, 2010.
CBS/Mark Knoller

The president is also considering a replacement to Lawrence Summers, the director of the National Economic Council and a top economic adviser, who is returning to Harvard University after two years in the White House. The top candidate for the post is believed to be Treasury adviser Gene Sperling, a former Goldman Sachs consultant who led the NEC in the Clinton administration.

Despite the insider candidates for those jobs -- as well as his own -- Gibbs said at the briefing Wednesday that it was important to get outside perspectives in the White House, arguing that it is beneficial to bring in people "who haven't been here, who have been able to watch a little bit from the outside."

"You have to admit there's a bubble in here to some degree," said Gibbs. 

Reflecting on his time in Washington, Gibbs called it "an honor and a privilege to stand here, to work inside this building, to serve your country, to work for a president that I admire as much as President Barack Obama."

He added: "One of the things you learn very quickly, as you walk into this building each day -- you're struck by the sense of the history of this place, and you realize that, whatever your length of service here, it is temporary in the long and wonderful history of our country."

See Gibbs discuss his plans after he leaves the White House: