Obama Faces Staff Turnover as Second Term Unfolds

Loss of key aides presents challenges to the second-term president.

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President Barack Obama meets with senior advisers in the Oval Office, Dec. 29, 2012.
President Barack Obama meets with advisers in the Oval Office, Dec. 29, 2012.

The turnover within President Obama's "A-Team" at the White House is about average for second terms in recent years, but only one third of his top advisers have decided to stay in their jobs, creating some potential liabilities for the future, according to a new study.

"As President Obama begins his second term, less than one-third of his original team will be occupying their initial positions," says political scientist Kathryn Dunn Tenpas of the Brookings Institution, who conducted the study.

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"Staff departures affect White House operations—loss of institutional memory, costs imposed when rehiring and orienting the new people, disappearance of networking contacts and relationships on [Capitol] Hill and in the Washington community—to name a few.

"Complicating matters further, second terms are never easy as presidents tend to overplay their hand at the start and political capital diminishes rapidly as Congress increasingly perceives the president as a lame duck."

President Barack Obama meets with senior advisers in the Oval Office, Dec. 29, 2012.
President Barack Obama meets with advisers in the Oval Office, Dec. 29, 2012.

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But Tenpas also sees a positive side, acknowledging that a second term "provides an opportunity for the president to reinvigorate his team with new ideas, new blood, and a new level of enthusiasm."

Among the top Obama aides who left their jobs recently were White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew and senior adviser David Plouffe.

Ken Walsh covers the White House and politics for U.S. News. He writes the daily blog "Ken Walsh's Washington" for usnews.com, and is the author of "The Presidency" column for the U.S. News Weekly. He can be reached at kwalsh@usnews.com and followed on Facebook and Twitter.