Marc Ambinder and Sully have a pretty good discussion about the Gregg withdrawl here. They both agree the census story is bullshit. Now, Ambinder is incredibly credulous but has good sources (these two facts are not unrelated — why not talk to him, when he believes everything you say, no matter how dumb). He says the Gregg people told him they knew this wouldn’t work out and were just waiting for the other shoe to drop and that the other shoe was the stimulus package, or maybe the census thing, or maybe something else. They say Gregg’s never lost an election so he’s a delicate Washington virgin who woke up before Obama’s roofie kicked in. That’s bullshit. This thing is a career-killer for Gregg, he’s got a decent staff I’m sure (all Senators do), and I’m sure his staff told him if he dipped his toes in and then withdrew that he was fucked. Which he is.
So obviously something happened between when he essentially accepted and now.
So what happened? Gregg probably got threatened, possibly in some not-that-ominous way, by someone in the Republican party. They told him if he took this he couldn’t be a lobbyist afterward or that his kid of one of his cousins would lose their patronage job or that their juvy record would get unsealed or that he’d lose his low-numbered license plate. Or maybe it was something a little worse. That 800K lottery story has always sounded a little strange to me (though who knows, of course).
But it has to involve some kind of a threat. What else could it be? (Even Ambinder suggests this may be the case.)
Update: Fred Hiatt in tomorrow’s WaPo:
There was something appealingly human in Mr. Gregg’s explanation of his change of heart. He said that he had been seduced by the euphoria of a new job in a new administration but came to realize that after 30 years of working independently and making decisions himself, he couldn’t be a part of a team….Mr. Gregg’s concern about potential changes at the Census Bureau, particularly news that the census director would report to the White House instead of the commerce secretary, are understandable: Either this administration trusts me or it does not, he might fairly have felt.
Fifty-three years old and never been kissed.
But Gregg can make all well by…wait for it…gutting Social Security:
On one such goal — entitlement reform — Mr. Gregg may be a better ally in the Senate than in the Cabinet. There could be redemption all around if the New Hampshire Republican, in what he says will probably be his last two years in the Senate, helps the president he says he admires put the nation on a sounder fiscal course.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the Villagers will be the death of us all.