"Administration officials — who long denied that President Barack Obama was planning a major housecleaning in the wake of the disastrous 2010 midterms — aren't pushing back anymore.
"Senior adviser David Axelrod has already announced his departure, and press secretary Robert Gibbs has also joined the roster of administration officials likely to leave in the coming weeks. ...
"Until recently, many in the building had expected Gibbs to stay. But according to sources, he is now seriously considering an exit from the West Wing — a move that would allow him to work on Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign and act as a media surrogate for the president, the sources say."
Update at 12:15 p.m. ET. The White House just released this statement from President Obama:
"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. 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."
Update at 10:26 a.m. ET: The Associated Press now adds that "Gibbs is leaving to become an outside political adviser to Obama and to give speeches in the private sector."
Speculation on a successor has so far focused on Gibbs' deputy, Bill Burton, and Jay Carney, spokesman for Vice President Biden.