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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

The Gregg Gambit

Republican Senator Judd Gregg is probably going to be getting more love today than anybody in Washington, as buzz builds about his possible selection as President Obama’s nominee for Secretary of Commerce. Should Gregg accept the post, New Hampshire’s Democratic Governor John Lynch will appoint his successor — the 60th Senator Obama needs to stop filibusters (assuming Al Franken is sworn in).
Some promising signals are emanating from the Gregg camp. This week Gregg called President Obama a “tour de force” and he has said “I can’t tell you anything…no comment,” in response to media inquiries about his possible nomination, according to the New York Times. In addition, Gregg is a bit of a gambler, who won about $850K, when he hit five of six numbers on a Powerball lottery ticket, after purchasing four different $5 quik-piks at a D.C. gas station.
The Gregg appointment would work well on several levels. His fellow Republicans would not be able to whine much about his qualifications, since Gregg, a former congressman, and Governor (and son of a Governor), as well as Senator, is one of the more broadly-experienced members of the GOP. He is one of the more moderate Republicans, but he has solid cred with the private sector as an advocate of cuts in taxes and government spending. Commerce is one of the more coveted cabinet posts among Republicans, inasmuch as it offers a wealth of fund-raising connections and a potent rollodex for future campaigns, as well as entre to the upper echelons of the corporate stratosphere, with its dangling golden parachutes and cushy Board memberships.
No doubt GOP leaders and corporate honchos will be offering Gregg all kinds of goodies not to take the job. (See the item in our staff post yesterday about the corporate panic over the possible enactment of EFCA).
Not accepting the post, however, would mean Gregg spending the remainder of his Senate tenure as member of the party of legislative obstruction, not a particularly happy prospect for a three-term Senator, who is up for re-election next year. After 16 years in the Senate, he can’t be too excited about his future opportunities in that body.
The Gregg gambit would also work for Dems, since Obama would likely appoint a moderate, pro-business Democrat to the post, if not Gregg. At Commerce, Gregg would not be a big tilt to the right. Green Dems should be fairly comfortable with Gregg, who was instrumental in passing the New England Wilderness Act, voted for the CLEAN Energy act of 2007, and he has a mid-range rating (43 percent) with the League of Conservation Voters. As Nate Silver has noted, Gregg has voted for the Obama agenda in six of seven votes thus far.
All in all, it’s a good match for both Gregg and the Democrats, giving Obama cred for bipartisan outreach, while strengthening prospects for his legislative agenda.

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