Barack Obama picks Judd Gregg for Commerce

As speculated, Judd Gregg, the Republican New Hampshire Senator, will be announced as President Obama’s nominee for the Secretary of Commerce position. In short, some backroom deals were struck between Obama, Gregg, and state Governor John Lynch. Lynch will not pick a Democrat to replace Gregg, but is free to deal with any state Republican politician to pick them if they promise to not run for reelection in 2010. Or he can pick the weakest Republican he can find. Either way, Lynch has to pick a Republican, but is free to set it up that the Democrats pick up the seat in 2010.The latest is that it will likely be J. Bonnie Newman, former chief of staff to Gregg and currently executive dean of the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. Former New Hampshire governor Walter Peterson and former senator Warren Rudman have been floated as well. Newman would do Lynch a favour in that he could point to not only sticking to democratic will and ignoring partisan politics, but that he appointed a woman to the Senate. It’s not unlikely that Lynch will be thinking about a potential run for the seat in the not too distant future, so everything that’s going on should be scrutinised for political maneuvering.

Obama’s bipartisan rating just went through the roof. It doesn’t count for too much in the end unless the administration gets the economy and the country back on track. If they do (before 2012, which is a very hard task but not all-together impossible), the Obama can continue his campaign of ‘change’ and a ‘new Washington’. But if things are still struggling, the it won’t count for anything at all. It’s likely that Gregg is looking for an easy retirement, so he certainly won’t be using this position to propel himself up in the party’s ranking. I suspect that, as the GOP stands now, they wouldn’t give him the time of day. Gregg will (hopefully) do a bang-up job and go down as a hero of the administration that fixed the largest economic disaster this side of the Great Depression. Not to mention the Republican Senator, appointed by Obama, who helped turn the page on partisan politics.

All this comes off the back of a report that the investigation into Bill Richardson, Obama’s original pick, is being expanded. Like I said in a previous post, Obama would probably have waited to name a new nominee if the investigation was going  to either prove that Richardson was in the clear or it was going to be a small-scale affair. If the investigation is being expanded it kills both of those options – it’s going to be a big thing and it’s probably going to find Richardson was in the wrong. Thus, Gregg is nominated.

I feel sorry for Obama being stabbed in the back by his nominees. First Richardson, then Timothy Geithner, then Tom Daschle (whose problems have got a lot worse since I last wrote on him). They all contribute to Obama losing his shine and people’s optimism in him. Which is bad when you are dealing with an economic problem that is going to be rescued by consumer confidence, they need to have confidence in the people in charge. They should make clear to the administration that they have some potential problems (which, by stated accounts, Richardson and Dascle hid from Obama and Rahm Emanuel until after they were publicly announced).

Anyway, this should make for good politicking in the next few weeks in both parties.

Thomas.

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