John: As you may recall, before the election I was tossing around the idea of writing an article on Bush’s top ten political mistakes in the event he lost. I was going to include two Cabinet appointments: Ann Veneman as Agriculture Secretary and Norm Mineta at Transportation. Both are Californians. And California is a big agricultural producer and exporter, which perhaps made Veneman seem like a good choice. But ag has a much larger impact in other states. A politically competent ag secretary from Wisconsin, Minnesota, or Iowa could have locked down his home state. Transportation is also a bit of an empire. If it’s a prelude to a 2006 run by Johanns, this ag appointment looks a lot better than the last one–although getting Nelson to flip would be even better.
(Incidentally, I was talking to a top Republican about that Senate seat and he quipped to me, “We’ll flip it either with [Nelson] or without him.”)