Now's your chance to be Commerce secretary

The Obama administration is having a difficult time filling the post, and was apparently surprised by Judd Gregg's decision to withdraw his nomination.

By Alex Koppelman

Published February 12, 2009 10:15PM (EST)

The Obama administration's search for a Commerce secretary is not going well, to say the least. First, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson had to withdraw from consideration because of an investigation into possible pay-for-play involving a campaign donor, and now Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), who took Richardson's place as President Obama's nominee, has also withdrawn.

The decision, which was announced Thursday afternoon, apparently came as something of a surprise to the White House: Aides who spoke to Salon didn't immediately know when Gregg had notified the president. And a statement just out from Press Secretary Robert Gibbs was, at best, cool towards the New Hampshire Republican:

Senator Gregg reached out to the President and offered his name for Secretary of Commerce. He was very clear throughout the interviewing process that despite past disagreements about policies, he would support, embrace, and move forward with the President’s agenda. Once it became clear after his nomination that Senator Gregg was not going to be supporting some of President Obama’s key economic priorities, it became necessary for Senator Gregg and the Obama administration to part ways. We regret that he has had a change of heart

Gregg's move wasn't about tax issues, but it still appears to be a case of poor vetting, and a decision that ultimately seemed to have little real benefit. Gregg insisted that another Republican be appointed to replace him, so there was no incentive on that front. Then, even after being nominated, he didn't vote for the stimulus. Plus, concerns from loyal Democratic groups about the way Gregg would handle the Census meant the administration had to take some of that responsibility away from him. And after they went through all that, it turned out he really couldn't back the president's policies after all.

Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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Judd Gregg R-n.h.