Politico's Ben Smith asks: What is he thinking? "Insiders around Obama say the X factor at play is Obama's icy tolerance for risk, and his belief in the power of the grand gesture," Smith writes. The Clinton pick "marries an arguably practical choice with lofty symbolism: He's enlarging his own administration by bringing in one of the leading figures in American politics, and delivering on a promise of a new politics that doesn't play favorites or hold grudges."
"As he wrapped up his second week as President-elect, it was clear that Obama was taking the long view in both diplomacy and politics," Time's Karen Tumulty and Massimo Calabresi write. "How else to explain the fact that he had all but offered the most prestigious job in his Cabinet to a woman whose foreign policy experience he once dismissed as consisting of having tea with ambassadors?"
Daschle brings savvy and expertise to one of Obama's toughest campaign promises: healthcare reform.
The choice "puts a skilled navigator of Capitol Hill in charge of the president-elect's bid to establish universal health care, which he has made a top priority," The Wall Street Journal's Laura Meckler writes. "He goes in with good will from key interest groups that have been working behind the scenes to build momentum for health reform, an effort not seen since 1993-94 when President Bill Clinton tried and failed to pass a universal-coverage initiative."
"Daschle has seen, as few in Washington have, the particular toll that the broken system has taken on rural America," Time's Karen Tumulty reports. "It's hard to imagine a more useful ally for Obama to help lead his bid for health-care reform, both because of Daschle's understanding of the legislative process and for his belief in the new President-elect."
Daschle "also is set to take on the position of "health care czar" in the Obama White House, ensuring that he does not get bigfooted on matters relating to health care policy," reports Roll Call's David Drucker, who broke the Daschle news. "Daschle was a close adviser to Obama throughout the Illinois Democrat's presidential campaign, and has been outspoken about his desire to enact a government-funded health care insurance program to help cover the approximately 40 million Americans who do not have coverage."
He also brings a web of post-Senate relationships that need sorting out: "President-elect Barack Obama's selection of former Senator Tom Daschle for secretary of health and human services posed new questions on Wednesday about how broadly the new administration would apply Mr. Obama's campaign promises to limit potential conflicts of interest among his appointees," David D. Kirkpatrick writes in The New York Times. "Although Mr. Daschle's work might not preclude his appointment, it could raise the possibility that the administration could require him to recuse himself from any matter related to either the Mayo Clinic or some of the clients he advised at Alston & Bird -- a potentially broad swath of the health secretary's portfolio."
Says the RNC's Alex Conant: "Barack Obama is filling his administration with long-time Washington insiders."