Yesterday we learned the stunning news that CNN’s Senior White House Correspondent Ed Henry is jumping ship for the network’s competitor Fox News. The mood inside CNN is one of shock as colleagues never saw this coming. CNN says it will announce Henry’s replacement soon. The network has a solid policy of hiring from within. But that choice rests largely with Washington Bureau Chief Sam Feist.
So who are the possibilities? We lay them out here.
TOP PICK: Jessica Yellin
Why she’ll get it: As the National Political Correspondent, her work goes all over the world both for CNN and CNN International. She’s wicked smart and graduated magna cum laude from Harvard. She’s a great campaign reporter. As a national reporter, she knows how to cover both the White House and campaigns. Very personable on camera. Young and vibrant. Asks tough questions. People like her. They respect her. “When I watch her I can relax,” an industry source remarked.
Why she won’t: Does CNN really want so many women at the White House? Most of the network’s producers there are women, with Alexander Mooney as the lone male White House producer. Her off-air meticulousness (which could also be construed as a compliment) sometimes grates on colleagues.
SAFE PICK: Dan Lothian
Why he’ll get it: He’s earned it. He’s second in command on the White House beat and knows the nuts and bolts of daily coverage inside and out. He’s the safe choice and CNN has a penchant for making relatively safe choices (don’t think Eliot Spitzer, but everyone else). Lothian earned his B.A. from Tennessee Temple University and a master’s degree from American University in Washington, D.C.
Why he won’t: He lacks a certain je ne sais quoi. No pizzazz.
THE RIGHT CHOICE: Dana Bash
Why she’ll get it: She handled the recent, topsy turvy Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) scandal with grace and skill. She knows how to cover the politics of Capitol Hill, but she could also shift easily to the presidential campaign trail. Quick on her feet. Excellent sources. Knows how to break news.
Why she won’t: Her water is about to break. “The joke is that she’s going to break her water live on air.”
UNUSUAL TWIST: Brianna Keilar
Why she’ll get it: The new kid on the White House beat, Keilar has social buzz. She attends events around town and gets mentioned in magazines. She sings. She’s unafraid. Coming from the Capitol Hill beat, she has a depth of understanding about politics.
Why she won’t: Too green to the White House beat. Others deserve it before she does.
OUTSIDE THE BOX: Jim Acosta
Why he’ll get it: People like him. He’s physically attractive. He’s covering Gov. John Huntsman‘s presidential campaign and is at ease out on the trail. Brass likes him on the trail. He’s solid. He knows his stuff.
Why he won’t: He’s in with the campaigns and that’s where he belongs. Sources tell us he’s not exactly the most energetic person.
WILD CARD: Richard Quest
Why he’ll get it: He’s funny. Really, really smart on economics and business. Not boring. He’d ask fantastic questions in the tone of The Daily Show — so bizarre, but at the same time, enticing. He’d be the entertainment choice.
Why he won’t: He’d be entertaining. So not a chance in hell. There’s also that little brush with the law. In April, 2008 he was arrested in Central Park after he’d been cruising for men with a rope around his neck that was tied to his genitals. He had a sex toy in his boot and Meth in his pocket. Need we say more?
UNCONVENTIONAL CHOICE: NYT‘s Jeff Zeleny.
Why he’ll get it: He’s at ease on TV covering national politics. He’s smart, wonky and networks have been known to steal print journalists for the bright lights. Think NBC’s Chuck Todd, lured away from NJ’s The Hotline by the late Tim Russert.
Why he won’t: Would this print journo make the leap to TV? He’s an unknown entity in a few different senses. CNN likes safe. And while Zeleny might be an interesting choice, he’s not safe.