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Saturday, October 20, 2012

Likely Changes to Cabinet If There\'s a Second Obama Term

Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush both won second terms on promises of continuity but that did not stop them from a little housecleaning after their reelections. Each replaced half of his cabinet. President Obama, if he wins, may do the same.

Most attention has focused on the top-tier slots likely to come open after November or sometime in the first year of a second Obama term, like the heads of the Departments of State, Treasury, Defense and Justice. But some of the less prominent departments would also get new leadership.

Ray LaHood, the transportation secretary and only Republican in the cabinet, has suggested he would leave, although he hedged last month, telling reporters he was “going to talk to the president” first. Steven Chu, the energy secretary, and Ken Salazar, the interior secretary, may go. Tom Vilsack, the agriculture secretary, is waiting to see if his wife wins a congressional race.

The position of commerce secretary is already vacant and needs to be filled. Acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank has kept up a busy public schedule in a possible bid to keep the job. Fred Hochberg, president of the Export-ImportBank, may be another candidate. Mr. Obama may also want to use it to reward a top supporter from the campaign.

Janet Napolitano, the homeland security secretary, would like to be attorney general if Eric H. Holder Jr. steps down, which would open her position, one of the most challenging in government because it supervises nearly two dozen agencies and deals with hot-button issues like terrorism, natural disasters and immigration. Ron Kirk, the United States trade representative, plans to leave, though he could be a candidate for another position like commerce secretary.

But there would be some continuity. Arne Duncan, the secretary of education, has said he wants to stay and the White House expects Shaun Donovan, the housing secretary; Eric Shinse ki, the veterans affairs secretary; Hilda Solis, the labor secretary; and Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of health and human services, to remain as well.