UPDATED, 1:17 p.m. ET: President Obama today announced his intention to nominate New York Rep. John McHugh (R) as secretary of the army. At an afternoon event at the White House, the president focused on McHugh's 16-year service on the House Armed Services Committee, on which he is currently ranking member, as experience that "uniquely qualifies him to help led America's Army."
"John understands personally and deeply the sacrifices that our soldiers and their families make every day," Obama said in a statement praising McHugh's qualifications. He added: "As Secretary of the Army, he will ensure that our soldiers are trained and equipped to meet the full spectrum of challenges and threats of our time -- the conventional and the unconventional, the nation state and the terrorist network."
McHugh would be the third Republican in a senior position in the Obama Administration (not including Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who was a holdover from the Bush administration). Former Illinois Rep. Ray LaHood is the Transportation Secretary while Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. was recently named as ambassador to China. Earlier this year, New Hampshire Sen. Judd Gregg (R) was chosen by Obama to be Commerce Secretary only to pull his name from consideration citing irreconcilable differences with the administration.
McHugh is one of the few northeastern Republicans to survive the last two election cycles and, interestingly, he did it with flying colors, winning 63 percent of the vote in 2006 and 65 percent in 2008.
Without McHugh on the ballot, however, this could be a difficult hold for Republicans in a special election situation. According to Swing State Project calculations, Obama carried the 23rd district 52 percent to 47 percent over Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in 2008 and four years earlier George W. Bush won it by a similar 51 percent to 47 percent margin.