Handicapping the Next President’s Cabinet

Whoever wins the election, the next president will make many appointments with important policy implications. Three stand out: the secretary of state, the Treasury secretary, and later, the next chairman of the Federal Reserve board.

If Obama is re-elected the leading candidates to replace Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are United Nations envoy Susan Rice, and Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry of Massachusetts.

Rice had been considered the favorite until she became ensnared in the controversy over the killing of U.S. diplomats in Libya.

The most frequently mentioned Romney appointee is Robert Zoellick, the former deputy secretary in the George W. Bush years and then head of the World Bank. He's the choice of the Republican foreign policy establishment, though the more unilateralist and aggressive neo-conservatives already are waging a campaign against him.

A Romney favorite is his top foreign-policy adviser, Richard Williamson, who's held numerous diplomatic posts. Nonetheless, some question whether he has the gravitas for the job.

For Treasury, if Obama takes the conventional approach, he'll probably select Jacob Lew, the White House chief of staff; some insiders speculate that the president would have to go with someone with good ties to the business community.

Romney probably will choose a business executive or his top economic adviser, Glenn Hubbard, the dean of Columbia University's business school, who is lobbying for the Treasury job. Ohio Senator Rob Portman of Ohio, who is respected by Democrats as well as Republicans, is mentioned as a candidate for several top posts.

Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke's term at the Fed ends in a little more than a year. Obama would probably pick either Fed Vice Chairman Janet Yellen or the former vice chairman, Roger Ferguson, as a way to ensure continuity.

Romney would likely go with the conservative Stanford University economist John Taylor, or Hubbard. Both have been very critical of the Fed's efforts to stimulate the economy.

(Albert R. Hunt is Washington editor at Bloomberg News and a Bloomberg View columnist. Follow him on Twitter.)

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