Obama's GOP picks seen as strategic plan

June 3, 2009 at 11:47 AM
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WASHINGTON, June 3 (UPI) -- Choosing Republicans to be in the U.S. leadership fulfills President Obama's campaign pledge and forces the GOP to defend its shrinking turf, analysts say.

Since taking office in January, Obama has tapped GOP moderates to be part of his White House team -- such as naming former Illinois congressman Ray LaHood as transportation secretary, selecting Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman as U.S. ambassador to China and nominating Rep. John McHugh, R-N.Y., for secretary of the Army.

Those selections, the conversion of Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter from Republican to Democrat and Obama's good relations with two prominent, moderate GOP governors -- California's Arnold Schwarzenegger and Florida's Charlie Crist -- could indicate a strategy of hemming in the GOP in the Deep South while emphasizing Obama's stated goal of bipartisanship, Politico reported Tuesday.

"It's very smart politically on a lot of levels. First, it's a demonstration that he's keeping his promise to govern in a bipartisan way. Second, the fact is, every time you open up a seat in the House or Senate that an incumbent Republican holds, you give your party an opportunity to win one back. And some of those seats may come our way," Democratic strategist Tad Devine told the Washington publication. "It forces Republicans to defend their own territory and spend money on defense."

The National Republican Congressional Committee, said in a memo released after McHugh's nomination Tuesday, "(There) is no doubt that White House chief of staff ... Rahm Emanuel was well aware of the political ramifications surrounding this selection when this plan was hatched."

Former Rep. Jim Leach, R-Iowa, downplayed the idea that politics played a significant role in Obama's appointments, Politico said.

"I view it as a Lincoln-esque political effort to unify," Leach said.

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