ANALYSIS: In War Over Secretary of State, a Glimpse Into Trump's Governing Style

A battle is playing out publicly over who will get the nod.

November 28, 2016, 5:01 PM

— -- The battle over President-elect Donald Trump's pick for secretary of state is playing out with ferocity among circles of advisers behind closed doors and then with equal vigor on Twitter and cable television.

That makes it simultaneously the least surprising and most startling development surrounding the emerging Trump Cabinet.

On one level, it's to be expected. A candidate who valued loyalty above all is considering someone, in Mitt Romney, who showed open hostility to his candidacy. That move appears to have brought out the methods with which the campaign was waged into the fight for the job as the nation's top diplomat.

Yet it remains shocking — indeed, unprecedented — to witness Trump's campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, declaring public warfare on an individual whom the president-elect is openly considering for perhaps his most consequential appointment.

"I'm all for party unity," Conway said over the weekend, "but I'm not sure that we have to pay for that with the secretary of state position."

Conway went on to attack Romney as a disloyal political loser who lacks foreign policy experience and whose appointment would spark a revolt among Trump supporters. It was an extraordinary public dressing down on the Sunday talk shows.

It serves as a warning to Romney and anyone else thinking about serving Trump that the freewheeling campaign style, with weapons wielded privately and publicly and with the same lack of established ground rules, will spill over into the Trump presidency.

The transition team sent word that Romney will be venturing to Trump Tower in New York on Tuesday, as if a senior adviser hadn't just said that he is unfit for the job he's meeting with Trump about.

Questions swirl: Was Conway secretly doing Trump's bidding? Was she freelancing or working on behalf of another faction? Is marching Romney through the process a giant head-fake, so Trump would look like he was casting a wide net through the establishment before settling on a loyalist?

The choice in front of Trump shows his possible different paths. Aside from Romney — who stepped out of political retirement long enough to label Trump a "phony, a fraud" — Rudy Giuliani, David Petraeus and John Bolton are among those in contention, each with his own mix of baggage and potential confirmation problems.

Regardless of his choice, Trump is providing a glimpse of what figures to be the Trump governing style. In this, as in so many areas, he's looking like the anti-Obama, with intrigue and political games playing out publicly, sometimes viciously, and the man in the middle of it all seeming to like it that way.

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