Democratic Scorecard: If Biden wins, who'll be his brain trust?

Author:Ullmann, Owen

As the contest for the Democratic presidential nomination moves to a conclusion, party strategists and consultants are busy putting together lists of candidates who are likely to fill the top Cabinet and White House spots should former Vice President Joe Biden, the all-but-certain nominee, defeat President Donald Trump this fall.

Biden's choices for senior economic jobs will be mostly familiar names from recent Democratic administrations. That should please the Washington establishment, which had feared Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont would ride his populist movement to the nomination and victory over Trump in November.

A President Sanders surely would have assembled the most unconventional brain trust in modern times to underscore his upset victory as a revolution against the Washington establishment, which pulled together to rescue Biden from the edge of defeat. The Sanders team included a group of accomplished and thoughtful but iconoclastic outsiders, some of whom would have struggled to win confirmation by the Senate--even a Democratic-controlled one.

"This was not a nomination race based on ideology. It was one based on insiders representing the ruling elite vs. the outsiders," observed Rob Shapiro, chairman of Sonecon LLC consulting firm and a senior economic adviser to numerous Democratic presidential nominees.

A President Biden is most likely to turn to a strong bench of officials from the Obama and Clinton administrations. His list for chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers or National Economic Council director surely would include Jared Bernstein, who served as chief economist to Biden when Biden was vice president. Bernstein's successor, Benjamin Harris, also could be a contender.

Jason Furman, who was President Barack Obama's CEA chairman, is mentioned frequently by strategists as a candidate for NEC director, head of the Office of Management and Budget, or a senior position at the Treasury Department. "Furman is trying to be available for any campaign except Sanders' and has contacts with all" the former candidates, said one strategist. "He would be a natural candidate for NEC chair or possibly Treasury."

Gene Sperling, who held top economic jobs in the Clinton and Obama administrations, is reportedly in play for a top job should Biden win. Another possibility is former Obama CEA Chair Austan Goolsbee, who had openly advised former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg. Goolsbee could be recruited by Biden now that Buttigieg has folded his campaign and provided a timely endorsement that helped propel Biden to a surprising sweep of ten primaries on "Super Tuesday," March 3. Biden and Buttigieg share many of the same left-of-center positions, so Goolsbee "probably would be in play if Biden gets the nomination," the strategist said. And Biden noted that Buttigieg could wind up with a senior post if Biden moves into the Oval Office--possibly a key White House staff job or a Cabinet post such as secretary of Housing and Urban Development or a new position to prepare for the next pandemic in the wake of the coronavirus crisis.

Former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who dropped out of the Democratic race after a dismal Super Tuesday performance (his $200 million of ad spending in the fourteen contests produced a victory only in American Samoa) also could...

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