Denver dailies didn't see possible John Salazar cabinet post coming

As noted in this morning's blog "Wake-Up Call: Mr. Salazar goes to Washington?," Colorado Representative John Salazar has confirmed that he's in the running to become Secretary of Agriculture in the administration of president-elect Barack Obama. This news likely came as a surprise to readers of the Rocky Mountain News and Denver Post. On numerous occasions since Obama's election, both papers have floated the names of Coloradoans who might wind up in the cabinet -- among them, Governor Bill Ritter, Denver mayor John Hickenlooper, former Senator Gary Hart and current Senator Ken (brother of John) Salazar. However, I didn't recall John's name being in the mix, and there's a good reason for that: Mighty few media types saw him as a viable candidate until very, very recently.

I searched the Nexis news service -- the most all-encompassing engine for newspaper and magazine pieces in the country -- using the terms "John Salazar," "Obama" and "cabinet." Over the past three months, these words appeared together in just fifteen articles -- and of those, only three talked about the prospect of John Salazar being tapped for a cabinet gig prior to yesterday. The most prescient by far was a November 7 editorial in the Santa Fe New Mexican. The author wrote:

Secretary of Agriculture: Rep. John Salazar of the San Luis Valley, which is either in Colorado or New Mexico, depending on your point of view. He served on our neighbor state's agriculture commission before joining his brother, Ken, in Congress.

After that, radio silence until December 2, when the blog PrairiePundit checked in with published the following item:

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus is formally asking President-elect Obama to consider a number of Hispanic legislators for his Cabinet, according to a letter signed by the CHC and sent to the transition team Tuesday afternoon.

The members of Congress whom the CHC is pushing include Reps. John Salazar (D-Colo.) for secretary of Agriculture, Ruben Hinojosa (D-Texas) for secretary of Education, Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) for secretary of Interior, Hilda Solis (D-Calif.) for Environmental Protection Agency administrator and Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.) for secretary of Labor.

On that same day, ColoradoPols chimed in as part of a blog asserting that Ken Salazar wasn't cabinet-bound. The last paragraph reads:

On a related note, what's up with this new rumor about Ken's brother Rep. John Salazar on the list for Agriculture Secretary? The rumor is for real -- we've got it from unconnected sources now. But is this in any way realistic? We're working on that -- if you don't hear from us again about it, the answer was obviously "no."

Forget that qualifying sentence now. Indeed, a subsequent ColoradoPols effort confirms the previous day's rumor by quoting the Denver Post, which supplements its December 4 report about John Salazar being a prospective Agriculture Secretary with a sidebar that mentions the names of three other Coloradoans who might join him at the big table: Tom Strickland, Tim Wirth and Hart, again.

This trio probably shouldn't start booking flights to Washington, D.C. yet. After all, the only hits in my Nexis search related to the Post (and the Rocky) date from yesterday and today -- not from thus-far inaccurate prognostications published weeks ago. -- Michael Roberts

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