One Democratic operative suggests keeping track of Barack Obama’s cabinet selections with a March Madness-type tournament chart. While no official announcements have been made, a controlled series of leaks have given a good sense of who's still in contention, and which big names have been bounced from the bracket.
The new administration still has some major posts to fill, including heads for the departments of Defense, Housing and Urban Development, Transportation, Labor, and Energy, not to mention the Environmental Protection Agency. But a number of the biggest prizes seem to have already been won, and a handful of serious contenders already been passed over in the speed-dating game that is the Obama transition.
Here's a look at five major players and the jobs they have apparently not been given:
John Kerry, State—The Massachusetts Senator and former Democratic presidential nominee was a passionate, articulate and early supporter of Obama, a fixture on both conference calls and the Sunday talk show circuit. Kerry’s people say he never had any expectations of being named Secretary of State but other Democrats say he made no secret of his Foggy Bottom aspirations. “He’s crushed,” said one Senate aide. Kerry would have been a fine pick, sources say, but Obama apparently had his eye on Hillary Clinton since the early fall. He does get an impressive consolation prize: the chairmanship of the Foreign Relations Committee vacated by Joe Biden.
Howard Dean, HHS—He’s stepping down as DNC Chairman with a revitalized reputation, thanks to Obama’s validation of his 50-state strategy. But Dean, a physician by training and rebel by inclination, has a keen interest in health care reform and was considered a top candidate for the top job at Health and Human Services. That is, until the gig went to former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, a less volatile player who is expected to be the administration’s health-care point man on the Hill. What did Dean in? It could have been his frosty relationship with Obama Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, who was frustrated with Dean's efforts on behalf of House Dems, according to the Wall St. Journal. The former Vermont governor, though, has a good relationship with Obama, and is likely to pop up somewhere.
Richard Holbrooke, State—Oy, did he get big-footed. The Clinton administration’s foreign policy Mr. Fix It lobbied for the State Department job with a fury, according to the L.A. Times, but wasn’t apparently under serious consideration due to previous clashes with Obama’s international team. Holbrooke, known for his intellect and pit-bull demeanor, was a top advisor to Clinton during her primary campaign and could get a role in the Clinton state department.
Bill Richardson, State—New Mexico’s governor and former Clinton U.N. Ambassador-cum-energy secretary dearly wanted State. And Obama owed him big-time, both for his primary endorsement and for Richardson’s now-forgotten decision to swing his delegates to Obama during the Iowa Caucuses. If he’s upset, though, his tears will apparently fall on the cabinet table. He’s reportedly the new Commerce secretary, and was apparently offered Interior too.
Susan Rice, NSA—Not a done deal, but retired Marine General James Jones and Clinton White House alum James Steinberg have emerged as the two top candidates for the national security adviser job, according to numerous press accounts. That would leave Susan Rice, a top Obama national security adviser long rumored for the post, out in the cold. Rice’s prospects may have dimmed because she is one of the few Obama insiders who has been skeptical of a quick withdrawal from Iraq. But centrists, including Brookings Institution fellow Michael O’Hanlon, are still making the case she would provide a valuable counterweight to more dovish Obama aides. It’s likely, though, that she'll be given a major role in the new administration somewhere else, if she wants one.