This time of year is known by baseball fans at hot stove season. Winter meetings are well underway, moves of many notable players have already happened, and many other moves are rumored to be in the works. Pitchers and catchers report in 7 weeks, and the 2018 campaign naturally concluding in another Los Angeles Angels World Series victory commences. Congrats to the Astros for keeping the trophy in the American League for a year, but clearly, after the offseason the Angels have had, there’s really no reason to even play the games. The outcome is already decided. But I digress.
Since we’re in the season of speculation, let’s apply this to the rumored presidential cabinet shakeup that’s being considered by President Trump. For your scorecard at home, here’s the possible changes that could usher in with the turning of the calendar:
Mike Pompeo replacing Rex Tillerson at State.
Tom Cotton replacing Mike Pompeo at CIA.
Scott Pruitt replacing Jeff Sessions at Justice.
Rick Perry replacing Scott Pruitt at EPA.
Now here’s where the President, if he and his advisors were shrewd, would make one more move. Invite Joe Manchin to join the cabinet as Energy Secretary. It’s a role where Manchin’s ideology would not get in the way, meaning he would do no harm, and he’d be inclined to implement the President’s policy goals. I realize Senator Manchin has thrown cold water on a stunt like this in the past, but looking at a state that is reddening, a very solid opponent with statewide ID in the form of the state’s Attorney General, yes, another Morrisey, and facing the prospects of explaining to his constituents why he attempted to prevent them from having a year of paychecks with more take home income, he’s got to understand he’s dead Senator walking. He’ll get destroyed next November. I think the political ad by AG Morrisey, or whomever becomes the West Virginia Republican nominee, will write itself, especially after Joe Manchin’s recent interview in the state with Hoppy Kercheval. When pressed to talk about the tax cut bill, Manchin actually claimed, “There’s some good in this bill. I acknowledge that.” My guess is by the fall, most of his constituents will agree and conclude that Manchin is out of step with their wishes. So would Manchin take the parachute now? I think it’s worth asking.
Joe Manchin was really in a terrible position. He has tried to maintain the image that he’s a centrist, not a partisan. I think deep down, he wished he could have voted for the tax bill. The problem is he couldn’t, because he would have been the only nationally-elected Democrat to break ranks, and that wouldn’t have been met with much party help that he’s going to need desperately next year. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee would not have been that forgiving.
So why on Earth, if it’s such a shoe-in to win that seat anyway, would Trump offer this gig to a Democrat? A few reasons. One, you have a new Republican governor in West Virginia that will appoint someone to neutralize the damage of Alabama/Roy Moore. Two, if the governor appoints Attorney General Morrissey, he runs in November as an incumbent, and the NRSC has to spend a lot less money there than they would otherwise need to, and can go on offense in places like, oh, say, Minnesota, where Karin Housley has gotten into the political rink.
Especially if Paul Ryan is correct that entitlement reform is in the offing, or if there’s going to be Defense sequester being destroyed in 2018, or any number of other controversial issues possibly needing a reconciliation fix, meaning a budgetary legislative maneuver allowing a 50 plus 1 vote instead of the normal 60 vote cloture, Senate Republicans need every vote they can get going into 2018 with 51, including an ailing John McCain and Thad Cochran. President Trump’s selling point for Roy Moore was not that he was a good man, nor was he an effective candidate. He backed Moore because he did the basic math and knows 52 is better than 51. Luring Manchin into the administration would be perfectly consistent with his focus on maintaining the Senate firewall beyond 2018 for his legislative goals as well as more judicial picks.
Let’s hope that someone in the White House is thinking outside the box a bit, if indeed a lineup change is on the horizon.