Posted Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012, at 10:50 AM
My colleague Matthew Yglesias has been spitballing a version of this idea with what sounds like knowing sarcasm. (It can be hard to tell.) He thinks Ayotte should be given the State department. I've tweaked the idea, and consider the possibilities.
- Ayotte, a first-term senator, hasn't actually come up with many foreign policy critiques of the administration apart from an understandable anger over the Benghazi debacle. So Obama can ring her up and say something like: "You're right, and I've agreed with you -- we screwed up on Benghazi. We need you to get to the bottom of it and repair our policy in the region. And after all, you served under Democrats and Republicans in New Hampshire."
- If Ayotte refuses, Washington chatters about why. Ayotte evolves from a freelance foreign policy expert to a figure whose expertise is questioned at the granular level.
- If she accepts, the job of replacing her in the Senate goes to incoming New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan, a Democrat. Ayotte's predecessor, Judd Gregg, was briefly nominated to be Barack Obama's first Commerce Secretary. At the time, Gov. John Lynch agreed to nominate a Republican placeholder. Hassan, who won a comfortable mandate, isn't under any such pressure, and could choose a Democratic replacement to serve until a 2014 election.
- The Democrats' Senate conference increases to 56 seats, which frees up the president to put John Kerry in State and risk (no one can agree on the scale of the risk) a special election loss to Scott Brown. Worst case scenario: Democrats have as many seats as they had in January.