Newt Gingrich says he’d “probably not” serve in a Mitt Romney presidential Cabinet, but plenty of people would be eager to—including Donald Trump. The Donald said this spring that he’d like “a position where I negotiate against some of these countries, because they are really taking our lunch.” We still wouldn’t bet on him for Secretary of State.
But with Romney seeing some of his best polling numbers yet and with former Utah governor and Bush appointee Michael Leavitt already engaged in Project Ready, the campaign’s tentative transition-planning operation, it’s not too early to dust off those Cabinet résumés.
Of course, a list of potential members includes those who could end up as Romney’s vice-presidential pick. For example, GOP House budget guru Paul Ryan is an obvious choice for the Office of Management and Budget—if he doesn’t end up as the VP candidate. Other vice-presidential hopefuls who could find themselves in the Cabinet include tough-talking New Jersey governor Chris Christie as attorney general—he’s a former US Attorney—and Leavitt or perhaps Ohio senator Rob Portman as White House chief of staff.
John Bolton, a former top State Department official and a Romney backer, could head back to Foggy Bottom.
Ex-Missouri senator Jim Talent has been a senior policy adviser to Romney, possibly putting him in line for either Homeland Security or Defense. Another possible HS candidate is former Minnesota senator Norm Coleman, also an early Romney backer.
New Mexico’s Susana Martinez, the nation’s first Latina governor, is a good bet for a Cabinet slot, and her education-reform efforts make her a promising fit for the Department of Education. South Carolina congressman Tim Scott, an outspoken opponent of the National Labor Relations Board’s efforts to stop Boeing from shifting production from Washington state to South Carolina, could be in line for Secretary of Labor. The Palmetto State’s governor, Nikki Haley, also vocal on the Boeing issue, could be in the running for Labor, too. If Haley goes there, Scott’s real-estate background could give him an edge for the job Romney’s father had, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.
Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty threw his support behind Romney in time to put himself in the mix. Pawlenty’s infrastructure efforts might make him suited for Transportation or the EPA.
While Treasury often goes to a Wall Street type, the financial center’s unpopularity might push Romney in a different direction. Former Council of Economic Advisers heads Greg Mankiw and Glenn Hubbard both advise the campaign and could get slots at Treasury if not the top job itself. Former OMB director and current Indiana governor Mitch Daniels could also get the Treasury nod.
Speculation about other posts hasn’t heated up, but Kansas governor and former state agriculture secretary Sam Brownback, a Tea Party favorite, could head the USDA, and Virginia governor Bob McDonnell’s job-creating record makes him a Commerce possibility. If Romney goes bipartisan, Hawaii senator Daniel Akaka, former chair of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, might be a pick for the VA.
While Tea Party activists hope Rick Santorum will lead the dismantling of “Obamacare” as Secretary of Health and Human Services, Hudson Institute scholar and former HHS deputy secretary Tevi Troy, who sits on Romney’s health-care-policy committee, might be a less fiery choice.
And if push comes to shove, there’s always the Donald, who’s ever ready for the spotlight.
This article appears in the July 2012 issue of The Washingtonian.