The National Journal has a list of people it claims are top contenders for positions in a Mitt Romney cabinet. With the exception of Richard Williamson (who has the inside track for national security adviser, not secretary of state, as the National Journal suggests), Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), former senator Jim Talent (R-Mo.) and economist Glenn Hubbard, I think it is highly unlikely that those mentioned will wind up with top spots.
In particular, foreign policy gurus at the top of the campaign are adamantly opposed to a prominent role for Bob Zoellick whose foreign policy is at odds with Romney’s views. Zoellick also joined the Romney team as an afterthought and has a list of associations (e.g., Enron) that would make confirmation contentious. The sentiment among those closest to Romney on Zoellick can be summed up: “Over my dead body.” Zoellick is nevertheless courting Romney advisers. (Another strike is his reputation as divisive, which is possibly the biggest no-no in a Romney organization.)
More to the point, the National Journal lists all white men. [Correction: The “Power Players” feature listed all white males but the complete story has a diverse list of contenders.] Romney’s cabinet in Massachusetts was anything but. Romney is determined to put a Democrat in at least one important role, not a token position. Look for top women to break through in previously male-dominated bastions such as intelligence agencies and the Defense Department.
For the White House staff, look for a woman communications director and/or press secretary. Both in Massachusetts as governor and in his presidential campaign, Romney has had women as the face of his operation. The campaign communications team is regarded as amiable but lacking the heft, authority and access to the candidate of the type the White House communications director and press secretary would require. Among his campaign advisers, Romney has a fleet of women who are experts with the press (Kerry Healey, Barbara Comstock, who made a splash on MSNBC this week). If he doesn’t select a woman, look for someone with executive-branch experience. Several top Republicans, including one former White House communications person, have floated the name of Tony Fratto, a former Treasury Department spokesman and one of the better Romney surrogates.
For White House chief of staff, Romney could go with a Boston inner-circle member such as Healey or Beth Myers. However, he will have a huge legislative agenda in which inside experience and skills in legislative relations are key. Ed Gillespie, who seized control of the campaign and whipped it into shape when it hit the skids in August, is a natural fit. Portman, who has held two White House posts and has House and Senate experience, should not be overlooked. (He would likely be on the short list for Treasury as well.) From the campaign, Lanhee Chen, policy director, is in line for domestic policy adviser.
What about Democrats? Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), who caucuses with the Democrats, is frequently mentioned for the secretary of state job. A bold move would be to select a former or current Democratic senator such as Evan Bayh, John Breaux (an early advocate of premium-support Medicare) or Joe Manchin. Nabbing a top Democrat involved in bipartisan budget deals (Erskine Bowles would be the most daring) would certainly signal that Romney wants to get a deal done.
Romney has consistently surprised media elites and D.C. insiders. Look for his cabinet to be more diverse and interesting than previous GOP cabinets.