A reporter's notebook:
Sen. Judd Gregg's decision to withdraw caught the White House by surprise. The press office found out about it at about the same time as the world did. If senior administration officials had advance notice, they did not widely disseminate it.
The White House loses a major talking point in bipartisanship and a major player on fiscal discipline and at least one news cycle.
A Republican associate of Gregg's says that he knew "from the beginning" that "it was not going to work" -- as in, the course of events convinced him almost immediately that his own values and the political goals of the Obama White House were in too much conflict.
The friend speculates that Gregg was waiting for the right moment to withdraw. That said, Gregg wanted the job in the first place, and presumably knew what he was getting into. It would be incorrect to believe that he was coaxed into this, charmed into it, by the White House, although administration officials went out of their way to convince Gregg that his input would be valued, even going so far as to pledge not to ask New Hampshire's Democratic governor to appoint a Democratic replacement.
The Census: the White House was trying to calibrate its message, letting Latino groups know that it took their concerns about underreporting seriously without creating a partisan issue. The White House failed in this endeavor. The thread was just too big for the needle.
A Democratic aide e-mails: "You can tell something went sour or bitter here, Gregg puts out his statement about 30 seconds before Obama starts his stimulus speech."
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