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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Behind the Gregg Appointment

Pass the crow, please, re my Friday post on the Gregg appointment. Excuse me for thinking a Democratic Governor would surely appoint a Democratic Senator to replace Judd Gregg, if and when he is confirmed as Secretary of Commerce. The deal was apparently never that simple.
I’m not quite buying the noise that the Gregg nomination is all about the quiet joys of bipartisanship. I doubt that President Obama would put a third Republican in his cabinet without a little quid pro quo somewhere down the line. The explanation that makes the most sense at this point is that the Senator replacing Gregg will support Obama on some key legislation, such as the stimulus package (if it’s not a done deal before then) and/or EFCA and health care reform — not way off the range of possibilities for a centrist/liberal New England Republican. Sort of a sometimes 60th vote to prevent or stop filibustering. That way Gregg gets to save face with his GOP buds, and Obama gets at least some of what he wants from Gregg’s replacement.
The whole thing is a little dicey, in that it requires a lot of trust in, not one, but two Republicans, under the best of scenarios. In his post at OpenLeft, David Sirota calls Gregg a “radical free-trader,” and makes a convincing case that Gregg’s track record on trade issues is worrisome. And there may be another twist or two before all of the fallout settles. I don’t much like the precedent of a Democratic governor caving in and appointing a Republican, which doesn’t help with party-building. But no telling what other behind-the-scenes options Obama had. It’s not the queen gambit I was hoping for. For now, however, it seems reasonable to trust in Team Obama, since they have been pretty shrewd political chess players so far.

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