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Dorgan Won't Be Energy Secretary

By Chris Cillizza
Sen. Byron Dorgan (N.D.) is no longer under consideration to be secretary of energy in President-elect Barack Obama's administration, according to transition officials. The decision was arrived at based on a belief within the former Illinois senator's inner circle that the plains state Democrat is more valuable to them where he is.

"Senator Dorgan would be a fantastic energy secretary but, because he is too important as a red state senator and a powerful ally, he is best suited to help advance President-elect Obama's agenda in the Senate," said a transition official granted anonymity to speak candidly about internal deliberations.

The names still in the mix for energy secretary, according to well informed senior Democrats include: Govs. Kathleen Sebelius (D-Kansas), Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-Calif.), Bill Ritter (D-Colo.) and Jennifer Granholm (D-Mich.), Sen. Jeff Bingaman (N.M), Google's Dan Reicher, Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers, former Edison International CEO John Bryson, Federal Express Chairman Fred Smith and Steve Chu, the director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

The decision to take Dorgan off the list is an acknowledgment by the Obama team of political reality. Dorgan is up for re-election in 2010 in a state that John McCain carried 53 percent to 45 percent in November over Obama, and that President Bush won with 63 percent in 2004.

Senate Republicans are expected to make a major push to get popular Gov. John Hoeven into the contest and that task would be made far easier if Dorgan's Senate seat were open. (Hoeven was recruited to run against Sen. Kent Conrad in 2006 and passed.)

Obama and his team have been careful in their Cabinet picks so far not to hand seats to Republicans.

The only two Senators to be nominated to Obama's Cabinet to date are Vice President-elect Joe Biden and secretary of state nominee Hillary Rodham Clinton; the replacements for each will be chosen by Democratic governors.

On the House side, the Members under consideration -- Raul Grijalva (Ariz.) for Interior, Xavier Becerra for U.S. Trade Representative -- for Cabinet posts sit in very safe seats that the party will have no trouble holding.

The only exception is in Arizona, where the nomination of Gov. Janet Napolitano as the head of Homeland Security means that Republican Secretary of State Jan Brewer will ascend to the governorship for the next two years.

Posted at 11:48 AM ET on Dec 6, 2008  | Category:  Cabinet
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Byron Dorgan and his colleague Kent Conrad represented me for many years, back when I lived in ND. Either of them would make an excellent Cabinet pick. Unfortunately, it will never happen as long as the Dems feel they can't afford to lose a Senate seat that would almost certainly go to the GOP. Dorgan and Conrad are probably the only Dems in the state who can hang onto those seats.

Posted by: nathanirwin | December 8, 2008 5:13 PM

Why not Rep. Rush Holt (D, NJ). He has a Ph. D. in physics, Worked at the State Department in arms control and spent 8 years as assistant director of the Princeton Plasma Physics Labs - one of the largest alternate energy endeavors in the country. He has more real energy expertise than any of the other candidates mentioned, is politically astute, and represents a "safe" Democratic seat.

Posted by: wwmarshall | December 7, 2008 9:30 PM

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Posted by: robthewsoncamb | December 6, 2008 2:31 PM

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