Hollings calls Robert Gibbs 'straight shooter'

Senior Obama adviser Robert Gibbs.

The man widely expected to be President-elect Barack Obama's press secretary cut his teeth partly in South Carolina a decade ago, serving as chief spokesman for U.S. Sen. Fritz Hollings' re-election bid.

Those involved in that 1998 campaign aren't surprised at the successful rise of Robert Gibbs.

"He's a worker, even-tempered and a straight shooter," Hollings said of Gibbs. "Me and my big mouth (were) always getting into trouble. He protected me."

Gibbs subsequently served as press secretary for John Kerry's unsuccessful 2004 presidential bid, as communications director for Sen. Obama and then for his presidential campaign. He is considered the frontrunner to serve as the public face of Obama's administration.

Hollings' 1998 campaign manager, John Tecklenburg, praised Gibbs for his steady hand.

"Running a campaign is like drinking from a fire hydrant — you're just running all the time," Tecklenburg said. "His opinions on what to do and what not to do with the press were extremely valuable and way above my head. We relied heavily on his experience."

Hollings ultimately won re-election to his final term by defeating Republican Bob Inglis, who currently represents South Carolina's 4th Congressional District.

During the campaign, Gibbs once showed up after an Inglis talk with Tupperware dishes full of dimes to underscore how Inglis had taken political action committee cash despite his claims that he had not. The donation in question was a $1,000 sum from Tupperware's political action committee. Inglis' team said it often received unsolicited PAC contributions and returned them.

Gibbs used the prop also to highlight the candidates' different approaches to PAC money. "We're more than happy for a group of nurses to give $5 each to a PAC who gives it to Fritz Hollings for supporting better health care," Gibbs said at the time.

Hollings noted that Gibbs was only 27 years old during the 1998 campaign and said his expected appointment as press secretary is a sign that Obama is bringing in the best and the brightest.

"He's far more mature than his years would indicate," Hollings said.