×

Three slam dunk cabinet choices for Trump

Donald Trump, 2016 Republican presidential nominee, left, stands on stage with Senator Joni Ernst, a Republican from Iowa, center, and Representative Steven 'Steve' King, a Republican from Iowa, at the conclusion of the 2nd annual Roast and Ride hosted by Ernst in Des Moines, Iowa, Aug. 27, 2016.
Daniel Acker | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Donald Trump, 2016 Republican presidential nominee, left, stands on stage with Senator Joni Ernst, a Republican from Iowa, center, and Representative Steven 'Steve' King, a Republican from Iowa, at the conclusion of the 2nd annual Roast and Ride hosted by Ernst in Des Moines, Iowa, Aug. 27, 2016.

Hillary Clinton didn't quite break that glass ceiling by winning the White House. But President-elect Donald Trump has a chance to use a crucial cabinet position to put a woman in charge of the greatest military fighting force in the history of the world. That would be Iowa Senator Joni Ernst, who would make an excellent choice as the first woman Secretary of Defense.

Ernst knows about breaking barriers in the military for women. She served as the commanding officer of the 185th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion in the Iowa Army National Guard. She even spent 12 months in Kuwait during the Iraq War as the company commander of the 1168th Transportation Company. As the military continues to evolve to include more women in combat positions and as Trump vows to expand the armed forces overall, Ernst has a unique background to achieve both goals. And the political capital Trump would get by appointing a woman to lead the world's greatest military could be immeasurable. Ernst earned Trump's gratitude during the election when she stuck by him, even during the depths of the "Access Hollywood" tape scandal. It's almost a slam dunk choice.

And that's also true because perhaps the most interesting thing you learn from looking at the electoral map is that the Midwest was the reason Donald Trump got elected. He basically swept every Midwestern state a non-Democrat could ever hope to win. He took Iowa, Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, and came close to winning Minnesota. He even surprised the experts by winning the heavily-Midwestern flavored Pennsylvania. So before Trump finalizes his cabinet choices, he needs to look beyond just experience and qualifications and make sure there's a decidedly Midwestern flavor to his team. Ernst checks that box too.

The next choice from the region should be Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker to head the Office of Management and Budget. Walker is already in the final two years of his term in Madison and may be looking for some cabinet experience to burnish his own presidential resume. More importantly, Walker's very hard-earned reputation as a politician who can take on government unions and reduce the state workforce.

That's crucial because the OMB Director has the power to reduce the size of the federal workforce as he or she works with the president to prepare the budget. OMB is technically not a cabinet-level position, but in the Trump White House it will have elevated importance considering Trump's promises to get government finances in order.

Walker came through a trial by fire in Wisconsin doing just that, surviving a union-organized recall election in 2012 and getting re-elected in 2014. The usually dicey OMB job will probably not be so tough for him to handle, at least politically. But Walker could also do a good job as Secretary of the Interior, where he could oversee a number of the energy regulations and drilling curbs Trump supports. And Interior is preferable to heading up the Department of Energy, which most conservatives want to shut down altogether.

Finally, let's not forget the state of Michigan and Trump already has a Michigan native he reportedly is looking try to put into the cabinet. That would be Dr. Ben Carson, who happens to have grown up in Detroit and graduated from University of Michigan Medical School. It was Carson who escorted Trump throug the streets of Detroit and during a visit to a black church earlier this year.

Carson's name has been floated as a possible Surgeon General, but also for the more serious job of Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. The latter position would keenly test Carson as being a point man in the Trump efforts to replace Obamacare, but Carson has expressed an eagerness for that job. And as an African-American who endorsed Trump very early in the campaign, Carson has more than a few chits to cash in.

President-elect Trump may be the consummate New Yorker, but he owes the middle of the country a major debt for getting to the White House. Ernst, Walker, and Carson are three people who could help him pay that debt back and then some.

Commentary by Jake Novak, CNBC.com senior columnist. Follow him on Twitter @jakejakeny.

For more insight from CNBC contributors, follow @CNBCopinion on Twitter.