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Obama's shadow does politics, sports, comedy

By Rob Christensen
(Raleigh) News & Observer

DENVER When Robert Gibbs and his wife, Mary Catherine, went out during their recent Hawaii vacation, Barack Obama recommended a restaurant and insisted they drop their 5-year-old son with him.

Barack and Michelle Obama as your babysitter. Not a bad job perk.

Gibbs, who attended N.C. State University, is the Obama campaign's communications director, the candidate's shadow and, when need be, the cut-up who keeps things loose on the campaign trail.

Gibbs, 37, was Obama's spokesman during his 2004 Senate campaign in Illinois, and then in Obama's U.S. Senate office. Gibbs' next stop could be White House press secretary.

Born and raised in Alabama, he played soccer at N.C. State. His parents now live in Apex.

He has held a series of political jobs, working for Democratic U.S. Rep. Bob Etheridge of Lillington, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and John Kerry's presidential campaign.

“He is smart and very quick,” Etheridge said. “He has excellent political instincts.”

Gibbs is living in Chicago, but is a road warrior.

The hardest part of his job is his separation from his wife and son, who live in a Virginia suburb of Washington.

“We call him the carnival worker, because he moves from candidate to candidate and from city to city,” said his mother, Nancy Gibbs.

Besides getting out Obama's message, Gibbs travels with Obama, talking sports and public policy.

“Sometimes it's to put something serious in front of him and talk about the way things are being communicated and answered at a town hall meeting. Other times, it's to make fun of yourself or make fun of him,” Gibbs said.

Gibbs calls Obama “a player's coach.”

“He's a genuine joy to work for,” he said. “He doesn't scream or yell. He empowers you to do your job.”

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