Mitt Romney said his Cabinet and White House staff will be stacked with men and women from the business world, but his top advisers sketched out for POLITICO a team composed of many familiar faces in Washington.
Already on the inside track: several veterans of George W. Bush's administration and a number of women — but not necessarily a single Democrat.
The choices are still months off — and statistically tied in the polls, Romney is hardly preoccupied with his transition just yet — but it is possible to chart a more detailed early look at a potential Romney Cabinet than was possible for Bush or Barack Obama at this stage of their campaigns.
And one name advisers return to time and again is a person little-known to most Americans: Mike Leavitt, a fellow Mormon who is creating a government-in-waiting plan for Romney.
Leavitt is the prototypical Romney Cabinet pick — loyal, low-key and diligent, just the kind of person Romney likes to surround himself with.
Leavitt did two jobs for Bush: ran the Environmental Protection Agency and the Health and Human Services Department; and is a lock for one of the most important jobs if he wants it — White House chief of staff or Treasury secretary, the advisers said.
Glenn Hubbard, an economic adviser to the campaign, would be a likely Romney appointee as Federal Reserve chairman or Treasury secretary. He served as Bush's top economic adviser for a time as chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers.
And Dan Senor, a senior adviser to Paul Ryan, would likely get a top West Wing job, perhaps deputy chief of staff or even national security adviser. Senor was a spokesman for the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq immediately after the war. Kevin Madden, traveling spokesman on the campaign plane, would be expected to be named White House spokesman.
Rounding out the Bush veterans: Senior Romney adviser Ed Gillespie, former counselor to Bush and former Republican National Committee chairman, is very well-positioned for a top counselor job given his bigger-than-most-realize role in whipping the current operation into shape, the advisers said.
In his last interview before heading to his lakefront New Hampshire home to prepare his acceptance speech for this week's Republican National Convention, Romney sketched for POLITICO several of the criteria he will use in picking his Cabinet:
• The qualification that is uppermost in his mind is private-sector experience. "My focus is going to be on the economy, getting us strong again. So having people who have actually run things in the private sector or have been actively involved in the private sector will be of real interest to me."
• Romney said he expects that his Cabinet will have "a representative form of diversity that mirrors our society at large," including women, African-Americans and Hispanics. He mentioned Debra Lee, an African-American who runs Black Entertainment Television, as someone who has caught his eye.
• Interestingly, he would not commit to putting a Democrat in his Cabinet, although he noted that he had in Massachusetts. If he decided to include one, former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell would be one possibility, perhaps as Transportation secretary.
• Romney also said he would empower his Cabinet more than Obama has. "I do not look to bring someone in to run an agency and say, 'Hey, go do a good job, and let me know how it goes.' I look, instead, to come in and say, 'Here is what I want to have done. These are the things I believe need to be done in this agency, and I'm the guy that got elected, not you. So, it is my goals, not your goals, that are first and foremost.' " To lure any CEOs into his Cabinet, Romney would need to make plain they would have more power than under Obama or Bush.
Romney boasted of how, as governor, he had more women in power than any other leader in the country. He said he asked women's groups at the time to give him a list of women who should get jobs, and many did. Romney said Meg Whitman of Hewlett-Packard is the type of woman he would love to have work for him, but her spokesman told POLITICO she wouldn't leave the company for government.
One woman certain for a top role, probably as a senior adviser, is Beth Myers, who helps run his campaign and ran his life as governor. "She made sure that every important issue followed a timetable … and that things were brought to me on a timely basis and that we had sufficient time to deal with them," Romney said.
She would be the new Valerie Jarrett — trusted as the keeper of the legacy.
Officially, Romney is focused on the campaign and is not wasting any time debating, even internally, who might join his Cabinet and senior staff. But behind the scenes, operatives wired into the Romney campaign have gotten scads of clues and have developed an extremely specific sense of the direction he would probably head.
So with the caveat that informed speculation is still speculation, here are the top names who have an inside track to the White House, according to people close to Romney:
• Jack Gerard, president and CEO of the American Petroleum Institute, who worked in the House and Senate earlier in his career, gets mentioned as a possible chief of staff or Energy secretary.
• One Hispanic official who is liked and trusted in the Romney campaign is Puerto Rico Gov. Luis Fortuño, whose wife, Lucé Vela Fortuño, is scheduled to introduce Ann Romney tonight. Commerce or Interior are possibilities.
• Ben Ginsberg has handled the campaign's most sensitive legal matters — including Romney's tax returns, the vetting of vice presidential candidates and debate negotiations — and would be the most obvious choice for White House counsel.
• Others likely to be named to such a broad strategic role as Myers include Peter Flaherty, a top aide since the governor's office, and Bob White, a boyhood friend who went on to work with Romney at Bain Capital.
• Kerry Healey, who was Romney's lieutenant governor, advises the campaign on foreign policy and could take a similar role in the White House.
• Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, who worked in the White House for George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who is popular around the Boston headquarters for his loyalty, could well get a top nomination as a consolation prize for not being picked for vice president. They would be in the mix for top Cabinet jobs, with Portman considered Treasury material and Pawlenty something smaller, perhaps Education.
• Secretary of State: Robert Zoellick, former World Bank president and Goldman Sachs executive who was deputy secretary of state, could get the top job. In diplomatic circles, this is seen as very likely.
• Health and Human Services secretary: Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal would be considered, and would likely take it as more experience to run for president down the road.
• Energy secretary: In addition to the buzz about being chief of staff, Gerard would be looked at for this. Others include oil billionaire Harold Hamm, a top Romney energy campaign adviser; and several veterans of the George W. Bush administration, including White House environmental adviser James Connaughton.
Others include Linda Stuntz, a Romney campaign surrogate who was a former deputy Energy secretary under George H.W. Bush, and Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, who formerly chaired the House Energy and Commerce Committee and shepherded major energy legislation to passage.
• Transportation secretary: Possibilities include Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, which would let Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, Romney's Virginia chair, run as an incumbent and avoid an ugly primary; Marion Blakey, former head of the Federal Aviation Administration and chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board; and Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., chairman of the House Transportation Committee, who will be term-limited out of his gavel at the end of the year.
Alexander Burns, Darius Dixon, Reid Epstein, Darren Goode, Maggie Haberman, James Hohmann, Bob King, Jonathan Martin, Andrew Restuccia, Lois Romano, Jedd Rosche and Kathryn Wolfe contributed to this report.