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Gregg's Withdrawal Becomes a Partisan Issue

Republican Sen. Judd Gregg of New Hampshire abruptly withdrew his nomination as commerce secretary Thursday, the third Cabinet-level pick scuttled. The move left President Barack Obama without a full team to lead the government. Video by AP

Instead, he focused on his unwillingness to be part of a team, particularly if he didn't believe in its views "110 percent."

"For me, I just realized as these issues started to come at us, and they started to crystallize, that it wasn't a good fit and I wouldn't be comfortable doing this," Gregg said.

A two-term governor and four-term member of the House, Gregg was welcomed into Republican leadership circles soon after joining the Senate in 1993. Three GOP leaders have given him the unofficial position of counsel, the wise man at the table whose views are often sought but who holds no official portfolio.

For 10 years he has rebuffed requests by McConnell and others to run for an elected leadership position, choosing instead to stick to his committee work.

And while other Republicans saw Gregg's decision yesterday as a rebuke to the White House, the senator offered only praise to Obama. Ruling out a run for reelection in 2010, he pledged to reclaim his committee post and work closely with the president on entitlement reform and supporting the administration's effort to fix the financial crisis.

Gregg's decision to stay in the Senate blocks the expected appointment of J. Bonnie Newman, Gregg's former top aide and former president of the University of New Hampshire, from filling his seat for the remaining two years of his term.

Gregg said the "euphoria of the desire" to do something else and his genuine belief that Obama will have a "good presidency" made him overlook the ideological differences with Obama and his own inherent individuality as a politician.

"As a very practical matter, I made a mistake. I should have focused sooner and more effectively on the implications of being in the Cabinet versus myself as an individual doing my job," he said. "That's something I'll struggle with for a while, as to why I wasn't more focused sooner."

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