Obama Appointments Create Ripple Effect

President-elect Barack Obama has been attempting to quickly fill key White House and Cabinet positions. This week, he picked New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano and Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico to fill Cabinet posts. Those appointees will leave unsettled political situations at home.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

It's Morning Edition from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne. This past week, President-elect Barack Obama left several states looking for new political leaders. He's taking Senator Hillary Clinton away from New York, naming her as his secretary of state. Arizona's Governor Janet Napolitano is his secretary of homeland security and New Mexico's governor, Bill Richardson, will be the secretary of commerce. Joining us to sort out what this means for their home states, NPR's political editor, Ken Rudin, who also writes the daily Political Junkie blog on NPR's Web site. Good morning, Ken.

KEN RUDIN: He does? I can't wait to read it.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MONTAGNE: Yes, we all can't wait to read it, Ken. And we can find out more, but let's talk a bit now about the two governors. Bill Richardson will be succeeded by a fellow Democrat, but not so Janet Napolitano. And when I was in Flagstaff a couple of weeks ago, I heard from a lot of distraught Democrats.

RUDIN: Right. It's a different story in New Mexico, that is, a Democrat, Lieutenant Governor Diane Denish. She'll be the first female governor in state history. But in Arizona, there is no lieutenant governor. So the next in line is Secretary of State Jan Brewer. She's not only a Republican, she's a strong social conservative on taxes, on abortion, a complete turnaround in ideology from Napolitano.

MONTAGNE: Well, New York, of course, also has an issue. Governor David Paterson is going to have a tough time replacing Hillary Clinton in the Senate. And I guess he has a lot of choices he has to make.

RUDIN: I think the only Democrat not under consideration is Eliot Spitzer. I think every other Democrat in the state is on that list. State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, at least seven members of Congress. There's a lot of talk about Brian Higgins, he's a congressman from Buffalo.

Many of the other possibilities are from the New York City area. So, Paterson and the Democrats would love an upstate New York presence. Even on the list is a guy named Bill Clinton, he's that fellow from Chappaqua, New York. And also there's Caroline Kennedy, her cousin, Robert Kennedy Jr. Bobby Kennedy held the same Senate seat until he was assassinated in 1968.

There's also the situation in Illinois; they still have to fill Barack Obama's Senate seat there. Governor Rod Blagojevich, also a Democrat, promises a decision by Christmas, or at least by the end of the year. Both decisions, Illinois and New York, will leave a lot of Democrats unhappy.

MONTAGNE: And Ken, this is not likely the end of it.

RUDIN: No. There are other members of Congress, other governors, possibly on possible cabinet lists that - Jennifer Granholm, the Democratic governor of Michigan, she's on the list as possible labor secretary. If she left, of course, her successor would be a Democrat, lieutenant governor there is a Democrat.

Several members of Congress - Xavier Becerra, Los Angeles, Raul Grijalva of Tucson, of both names as possible U.S. trade representatives, again, both in solidly Democratic districts. Tim Kaine, the governor of Virginia, was under consideration for secretary of education, but if he left that governorship of Virginia would go to a Republican. Tim Kaine took his name out of consideration.

MONTAGNE: And on the Republican side, Senator Mel Martinez of Florida announced this week that he won't be seeking another term next year.

RUDIN: Right. I mean, he is a first-term senator, first - former Republican Committee -National Committee chairman. He has - his numbers showed him - he has been in trouble. It's interesting, as the Democrats bring out a leading Hispanic figure - Bill Richardson to be secretary of commerce one of the leading Republican Hispanics are going to be disappearing from the scene.

But some good news for the Republican Party: Jeb Bush, the former governor, remains very popular in Florida, especially among conservatives. He said he would - he has not ruled out seeking that Senate seat. He would be a very formidable presence in the Republican Party, and the GOP definitely needs some formidable presence after what happened in 2008. Jeb Bush is on that list.

MONTAGNE: You know, other interesting news. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson of Texas has taken steps to run for governor, and that would put her on a collision course with her fellow Republican, the governor, Rick Perry.

RUDIN: Right. Rick Perry, the - he's been the governor since George W. Bush left. He's not going to go quietly. He has promised Hutchinson a fight for his job. It could get very nasty for the Republicans in Texas.

MONTAGNE: Ken, thanks. And Ken Rudin is NPR's political editor and this week what, Ken, you changed your Political Junkie column into a blog?

RUDIN: America does not have enough blogs. So, I think that's very good for the country and me and you.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MONTAGNE: Well, listeners can find it at npr.org/politicaljunkie.

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