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November 18, 2004
Bipartisanship On Ag Secretary?

CNN reported last night that Karl Rove has had conversations with Senator Ben Nelson (D-Nebraska) about replacing Ann Veneman as Secretary of Agriculture. Nelson, a centrist in one of the reddest states in America (Bush +33), might join Norman Mineta as the other Democrat in George Bush's second-term Cabinet:

President Bush's top political adviser, Karl Rove, spoke to Nelson about the possibility in a telephone conversation last Friday, according to the two sources familiar with their conversation. Nelson has thus far declined to accept what the sources described as an offer or solicitation.

Nelson told CNN he could not confirm or deny that an offer from Rove was made, adding that he is "happy" in his current job.

But when pressed as to whether he would consider the job if Bush offered it, Nelson said, "Any time the president talks, you listen."

Nelson will be pressured by Democrats to decline the position, as his resignation from the Senate would allow the Republican governor of Nebraska to nominate his replacement. That would stretch the Republican majority to 56-43, with one independent caucusing with the Democrats (Jim Jeffords, who chose the spectacularly losing side in 2001). In truth, the difference would be negligible, as Nelson already supported a significant part of Bush's legislative agenda. Symbolically, however, it would be another red-state retreat that would marginalize the Democrats further as the coastal party.

However, I expect that Nelson may actually take Rove up on the offer nonetheless. In an age of terrorism, Agriculture plays a much more significant policy role than ever. The department remains highly involved in homeland security, protecting the domestic food supply from poisoning or sabotage, as well as its traditional role in managing the massive role of farming in American lives and exports around the world.

In terms of Cabinet appointments, it may not be the State Department, but it's no backwater, either. It certainly beats serving in a Senate where his party has lost control and shows no sign of renaissance, and where he likely will lose re-election anyway.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at November 18, 2004 6:14 AM

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» - Sources: Dem approached for agriculture post - Nov 17, 2004 from MediaCulpa
The Bush administration is considering Democratic Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska as Agriculture Secretary. If Nelson accepts, Nebraska's Republican governor will appoint a Republican to replace Nelson, increasing the number [Read More]

Tracked on November 18, 2004 9:18 AM

» Moderate Democrat Ben Nelson: A fine choice for Sec'y of Agriculture from
CNN reported today that Democrat Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska is being considered by President Bush for the role of Secretary of Agriculture: President Bush's top political adviser, Karl Rove, spoke to Nelson about the possibility in a telephone ... [Read More]

Tracked on November 18, 2004 9:54 PM

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