CFPB chief Cordray announces resignation -- but he may not be gone for long

Looks like Donald Trump has lost one headache, but Ohio Republicans might have gained a new one. Richard Cordray announced his resignation as head of the controversial Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), allowing Trump to finally appoint a more business-friendly director, as he has long promised. Trump had been under pressure to fire Cordray, but chose to bide his time, according to CNBC:

Richard Cordray announces his departure from the CFPB from CNBC.

“As I have said many times, but feel just as much today as I ever have, it has been a joy of my life to have the opportunity to serve our country as the first director of the Consumer Bureau by working alongside all of you here,” he wrote.

His departure was not unexpected. Sources earlier this month told CNBC that President Donald Trump was ready to sack Cordray but was afraid of turning him into a hero for his political adversaries. CNBC has reached out to the White House for comment.

In addition to the political fire in Washington, Cordray has long been speculated as a potential candidate for Ohio governor. He made no mention of his future plans in the email.

Cordray hit the exits early, as his term at CFPB expires in July of next year. Rumors have swirled for some time that Cordray was looking ahead to a run for political office, which would necessitate his resignation. With a friendlier director in place, the Trump administration will have a much easier time deconstructing the regulation put in place over the last few years at the CFPB, helping Trump meet some of his campaign promises.

On the other hand, Cordray now has considerable support from the Bernie Sanders-Elizabeth Warren wing of the Democratic Party, and no small amount of credibility as a “Resistance” figure, albeit a low-key one. Trump might have outsmarted and outlasted Cordray in that context by denying him the political martyrdom of being fired for political reasons, but the attacks from Trump and his allies certainly raised Cordray’s profile even higher than it was during the Obama administration.

The former Ohio attorney general will still face some competition in the primary, Politico noted back in July:

Speculation about Cordray’s political future has dogged him and the agency since last year, even as other Democrats piled into the race to replace retiring Republican Gov. John Kasich.

Former state Rep. Connie Pillich, former state Senate Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni, one-time Rep. Betty Sutton and Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley are running in the Democratic primary.

But Cordray, who served a term as Ohio attorney general before Obama tapped him to lead the CFPB, is the only person in the field with a national profile and a statewide win under his belt.

Does that help much in Ohio, though? The Buckeye State was one of the battlegrounds that Democrats lost last year when Hillary Clinton let her progressive flag fly. It wasn’t even close — Trump took the state by eight points, 52/44. Lest one think that this was a Trumpian anomaly, don’t forget that Rob Portman blew out progressive retread Ted Strickland by twenty points in last year’s Senate race. Strickland was a pretty poor campaigner, but clearly the progressive banner didn’t do much to lift either Democrat into contention. And like Cordray, Strickland had won a state-wide contest before too, serving one term as governor at the same time that Cordray was AG.

And let’s not forget Ohio Republicans in this calculation, who seem tanned, rested, and flush with cash:

On the Republican side the race features current Attorney General Mike DeWine, Lt. Governor Mary Taylor, Secretary of State Jon Husted and Congressman Jim Renacci.

“I think there’s still the advantage to DeWine in some ways because he is the senior member and probably the best known across the state,” Sutton said. “I certainly give Husted some advantage on that too and Jim Renacci.”

DeWine, Husted and Renacci as of their last campaign finance filing all had over $4 million cash on hand with Renacci’s coming in the form of a loan to his campaign.

Cordray’s presence would certainly give the race more of a national focus, but that didn’t help Democrats much last year, either. Democrats might want to consider looking for someone less tied to the activist fringe, but that advice has gone unheeded for a while.

Finally, Rep. Ann Wagner (R-MO), the House chair of the subcommittee that oversees the CFPB had a pithy reaction to Cordray’s resignation: This is it in its entirety, via an e-mailed statement: “Good riddance.” Yeah, well … don’t bet on it.