The Wall Street crisis and the Bush administration’s push for a $700 billion bailout plan have raised the question of who might serve as treasury secretary in the next administration.
And that speculation, in turn, has increased conjecture about candidates for all Cabinet posts, as well as other key positions in the new administration, depending on whether Sen. John McCain or Sen. Barack Obama is elected.
Following are the names of some top prospects if McCain is elected:
Secretary of State: McCain’s circle of foreign policy advisers is small but highly respected, and many of them could fit easily into this high-powered role. They are: Richard Armitage, a former assistant secretary of state and defense official; Robert Kagan, a conservative scholar with the Carnegie Endowment; and former secretaries George Shultz and Henry Kissinger. Also on everyone’s short list: Joe Lieberman.
Treasury: McCain gave early signs that he wanted longtime friend and former Sen. Phil Gramm of Texas in this post, but Gramm’s missteps this summer on the campaign trail, and the heightened importance of the secretary’s role, make it unlikely he’ll pick Gramm. Instead, McCain could turn to Robert Zoellick, a deputy secretary of state and U.S. trade representative in the Bush administration, as well as director of Goldman Sachs. Zoellick was a top McCain policy adviser before he became World Bank president. Also mentioned is John Thain, former chairman of the New York Stock Exchange, who has raised about $500,000 for the McCain campaign.
Defense: Republicans increasingly believe that McCain will ask Bush’s Pentagon chief, Robert Gates, to stay on for at least a year. The idea would be popular on Capitol Hill and in defense circles. Gates has not ruled out staying but has told reporters he expects to leave his post at the end of Bush’s term. Other possibilities include John Lehman, a former Navy secretary and member of the 9/11 Commission, as well as Sens. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. A long-shot choice could be Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Attorney general: Advisers believe McCain will use his Justice appointment to appease conservatives, much like Bush did in 2000 with his choice of John Ashcroft. He signaled that possibility in May when he announced a justice advisory committee to counsel him on federal judicial vacancies and named two staunch conservatives to lead it: former Solicitor General Ted Olson and Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas. Another choice that would delight conservatives: Eugene Scalia, son of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and a former Labor Department solicitor. McCain is also close to A.B. Culvahouse Jr., a respected legal mind who led his vice presidential search committee. Finally, insiders mention Deborah Wong Yang, the first Asian-American woman to serve as a U.S. attorney. Yang led the largest U.S. attorney’s office outside of D.C. as head of the Central District of California.
Interior: McCain could turn to a host of old-time Republican friends from Western states, including former Wyoming Gov. James Geringer and former Utah Gov. Michael Leavitt. Former Montana Gov. Marc Racicot, a former Republican National Committee chair, remains popular with Republicans, although he has been quiet in politics this year, and he has strong conservative credentials on environmental issues. Utah Gov. Jim Huntsman, who backed McCain in the Republican primary against Utah favorite son Mitt Romney, also is being considered.
Agriculture: The consensus is that McCain would turn to one of two Republican governors with strong agriculture backgrounds, Sonny Perdue of Georgia or Dave Heineman of Nebraska, to head USDA. But others say McCain is eyeing another Georgian, Sen. Saxby Chambliss, the top Republican on the Senate Agriculture Committee. Another prospect could be Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.
Commerce: Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine could be a top candidate. She has worked with McCain on the Senate Commerce Committee on key global warming legislation and is popular with moderate Republicans and independents. If McCain decides to go with someone outside of government, GOP power broker and former Goldman Sachs executive Lewis Eisenberg is a top prospect.
Labor: Jobs will be a key economic priority for the next president, so the Labor secretary should be someone with a record of creating jobs. Former Michigan Gov. John Engler, who leads the National Association of Manufacturers, could be a contender. So could former Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele, an attorney and prominent talking head.
Health and Human Services: McCain always has been close to former Sen. James Talent of Missouri, who was active in healthcare issues before losing his seat in 2006. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who was an assistant HHS secretary and ran the state’s health and hospitals department in the 1990s, is another top prospect. Former Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas would be a popular choice with some conservatives.
Housing and Urban Development: Following the demise of HUD Secretary Alfonso Jackson in early 2008, Bush appointed Steven Preston, who has received high praise for his leadership of the nation’s subprime mortgage crisis. He could be asked to stay on in a McCain administration. Another prospect is Michael Steele, the former Maryland lieutenant governor.
Transportation: Gov. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota didn’t get the running-mate offer, but he is a shoo-in for transportation chief if McCain wins. Pawlenty has drawn wide praise for his leadership of the state in the aftermath of the Minneapolis bridge collapse in August 2007. Another possible contender is Engler or former Kansas Gov. Bill Graves, who heads the American Trucking Association.
Energy: Sarah Palin, who as Alaska governor has developed an expertise on energy issues, probably would play a key role in selecting McCain’s energy secretary. From Capitol Hill, Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina and Rep. Joe Barton of Texas are top prospects.
Education: The two top prospects are Lisa Graham Keegan, the former Arizona superintendent of public instruction, and Phil Handy, former chairman of the Florida State Board of Education. Both Keegan and Handy are top education advisers to McCain. Another candidate could be Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, a VP shortlister who previously was Florida education commissioner.
EPA administrator: If McCain follows Bush’s lead, he would use the EPA as a place to help burnish his moderate credentials. Another prospect is Crist, who has a moderate record on environmental issues but recently joined McCain in switching his position to support offshore oil drilling.
Veterans Affairs: McCain is likely to appoint one of his Senate allies, probably either Burr or Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, both of whom are senior members of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.
United Nations ambassador: John Bolton, senior vice president for public policy research at the American Enterprise Institute and member of the Project for the New American Century, is an informal adviser to the McCain campaign and could be asked to return to his former post at the U.N.
Homeland Security: Lieberman, who helped write the legislation that created the Homeland Security Department, is a top choice. Another possibility is former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, who served in this post under President Bush. McCain also is rumored to like former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani for this job.
Chief of staff: Mark Salter, who has been McCain’s alter ego for most of the past 20 years in politics, is likely to take on this role in a McCain White House.
National security adviser: McCain is likely to select Randy Scheunemann, who is McCain’s top adviser on foreign and national security issues, for this key sub-Cabinet post. Other possible choices include two other prominent advisers, Robert Kagan and former CIA chief James Woolsey.
Communications director/press secretary: As regular advocates for the GOP ticket on the cable TV circuit, Jill Hazelbaker and Tucker Bounds have sharpened their media skills this year. Each probably would be offered a prominent role in a McCain White House press office.
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