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In nifty political play, Obama ponders GOP's Gregg for Commerce

January 29, 2009 |  5:42 pm

New Hampshire Republican Senator Judd Gregg speaks while Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell listens

Word out tonight from the Obama Democratic White House that the new guy is said to be so really strongly interested in bipartisanship that he's seriously thinking of adding another Republican to his Cabinet, New Hampshire GOP Sen. Judd Gregg as secretary of Commerce.

Gregg would join former Illinois Republican Rep. Ray LaHood, who's secretary of Transportation, as the GOP contingent at the left-handed president's Cabinet table, presumably at the far right end. (Defense Secretary Robert Gates worked for a Republican president, but technically he's an independent.)

Gregg would replace the departed New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who had a little problem with a lingering federal grand jury probe of pay-to-play down there.

Surprising, right? After all, Gregg's not a Latino. He's a conservative morphing into a moderate in the current political climate change. He's a Bushie. In fact, he was GWB's political point man in that crucial primary state in the 1999-2000 campaign that launched the last eight years of Republican White House rule.

Not a good political point man, as it turned out. Because Sen. John McCain waxed the Texas governor in Gregg's state on GOP primary day in 2000.

Karl Rove knew his boss was going down at breakfast that gray primary day -- by 15 points, he thought. It got worse. Nineteen points by nightfall. Very embarrassing. Karen Hughes started talking publicly about Harry Truman for some reason.

What, you might ask, besides overpriced B&B's and souvenir shops, qualifies anyone from New Hampshire to be secretary of Commerce?  Especially a Republican. Weren't they the ones who, we heard all last fall, got us into this historically terrible economic mess?

All good questions.

So here's the real play:

If Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell can't keep Gregg from leaving, that creates a Senate vacancy, right? And that means the replacement would be named by New Hampshire's governor, right? His name is John Lynch. He's a Democrat. What party candidate do you think he would nominate? Not likely a Libertarian.

Assuming comedian Al Franken's narrow Senate lead in Minnesota is not one of his bad jokes, that would give Democratic Majority Leader Leader Harry Reid a Senate majority of -- tah-dah -- 60. The magic GOP filibuster-proof majority.

Si se puede. The kind of bipartisanship Harry and Rahm can believe in.

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photo credit: Alex Wong / Getty Images (Sen. Judd Gregg speaks and Sen. Mitch McConnell listens).