Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff, is expected to leave his job later this year after growing tired of the "idealism" of Barack Obama's inner circle.
Washington insiders say he will quit within six to eight months in frustration at their unwillingness to "bang heads together" to get policy pushed through.
Mr Emanuel, 50, enjoys a good working relationship with Mr Obama but they are understood to have reached an understanding that differences over style mean he will serve only half the full four-year term.
Friends say he is also worried about burnout and losing touch with his young family due to the pressure of one of most high profile jobs in US politics.
"I would bet he will go after the midterms," said a leading Democratic consultant in Washington. "Nobody thinks it's working but they can't get rid of him – that would look awful. He needs the right sort of job to go to but the consensus is he'll go."
An official from the Bill Clinton era said that "no one will be surprised" if Mr Emanuel left after the midterm elections in November, when the Democratic party will battle to save its majorities in the house of representatives and the senate.
It is well known in Washington that arguments have developed between pragmatic Mr Emanuel, a veteran in Congress where he was known for driving through compromises, and the idealistic inner circle who followed Mr Obama to the White House.
His abrasive style has rubbed some people the wrong way, while there has been frustration among Mr Obama's closest advisers that he failed to deliver a smooth ride for the president's legislative that his background promised.
"It might not be his fault, but the perception is there," said the consultant, who asked not to be named. "Every vote has been tough, from health care to energy to financial reform.
"Democrats have not stood behind the president in the way Republicans did for George W Bush, and that was meant to be Rahm's job."
The tone, of course, is that Rahm is the "bad" guy and the rest of the inner circle are the "good" guys. I don't think it's that simple. I think Obama's choices reflect his own philosophies, and you simply can't pin everything on Rahm. We have a Democratic president who's trying to gut public education, Social Security and Medicare and who refuses to deal with the national tragedy of long-term unemployment. Are we supposed to believe Rahm tied the president to a chair and hypnotized him? I'm not buying it.