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So Long, Tim Geithner

Wednesday, 3 Nov 2010 | 11:02 AM ET

We're starting a Tim Geithner death watch.

Timothy Geithner
Photo by: Pete Souza
Timothy Geithner

That sounds a bit morbid. So let's be clear. We do not think President Barack Obama will murder Tim Geithner following the devastation of his party in the midterm elections. He'll just toss the guy out of the Treasury Department.

There will be heavy pressure from within the Democratic party for the Obama administration to make changes that will both publicly mark a change of direction for the administration and privately send a message to party insiders that the White House is accepting its share of the blame for the loss of the House of Representatives.

Geithner is a clear candidate to play the fall-guy. In exit polls, six in 10 voters said the economy is the nation's No.1 problem. Around four in 10 believe their family's financial condition got worse since Obama took office. Geithner is the nation's chief economic official. A large share of the blame for last night's results will likely fall on him.

Geithner outlasted many other economic advisers to the president, including Peter Orzsag, Herb Allison, Steve Rattner, Larry Summers and Christina Romer. Insiders say the role he played in getting Congress to pass the financial reform bill has significantly strengthened his position in the administration.

But Geithner lacks a constituency within the Democratic party, especially on Capitol Hill. He won't have substantial backers who could protect his job, unlike many other high level Obama administration officials. He doesn't have any ties to the Democratic base. He hasn't been a substantial fund-raising draw for any Democrats.

Geithner's best hope for keeping his job may have been for the GOP to take the Senate. In that case, the administration may have feared Republicans would block the nomination of his successor. But with the Democrats still controlling the nominee confirmation process, the administration will have a more leeway to pick a replacement.

Don't shed too many tears for Geithner. He probably has a bright future ahead of him. Plenty of banks would love to bring Geithner on board. He may find himself on the seats of a number of corporate boards. And these prospects will also help the Obama administration make the decision to ask for his resignation. Tim will be all right, so no one has to feel bad about firing him.

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