A search for stability in second-most-powerful job in Washington

Vice President Biden’s ex-chief of staff and a former Democratic leader in the Senate are among the names being touted for the second-most-powerful job in Washington.

White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew presently holds that title as the gatekeeper to the Oval Office, but he is widely expected to move on — either as the successor to Timothy Geithner as Treasury secretary or back to the private sector.

If Lew leaves, Obama’s choice in replacing him will send loud signals to the rest of Washington about how the president plans to deal with Congress and even shape his second-term agenda.

A candidate with strong healthcare credentials will be an indication the president wants to cement his legacy initiative. A Capitol Hill veteran will be read as a sign he is truly committed to striking incremental, bipartisan deals on the economy. A foreign-policy veteran would be evidence he is concerned about brewing conflicts in the Middle East.

There’s also a sense that the president will be looking for stability in a job that has already seen three permanent and one acting officeholder in his first term. The record for chief of staff appointments in the modern era is four, held jointly by Presidents Clinton and Reagan. A replacement for Lew would match that at the outset of Obama’s second term.

Whoever is selected will have a massive influence on the administration. The chief of staff will influence policy and have a say in picking the rest of Obama’s second-term team.

Here’s a look at the names being discussed as possible successors to Lew.

Former Sen. Tom Daschle (D-S.D.)

The former Senate majority leader is well-liked within the White House, and his relationships on Capitol Hill would be valuable as Obama seeks a grand bargain on deficit reduction and immigration reform.

Democrats still lament Daschle’s spiked nomination as secretary of Health and Human Services over an income-tax flap, saying had he been involved in the negotiation of the healthcare law, it likely would have garnered more Republican support.

“He's got, obviously, a great relationship with Senate Democrats and even Senate Republicans, and is just a master tactician in understanding how Congress works,” said one Democratic strategist.

After his administration’s relationship with business soured, Obama briefly turned to former Commerce Secretary William Daley as his chief of staff in 2011. The strategist said Daschle’s ties to business, Republicans and Democrats could help forge bipartisan deals on tax and entitlement reform or immigration.

Ron Klain and Tom Nides

Klain, a former chief of staff to Biden and former Vice President Al Gore, is a Democratic insider with deep roots on Capitol Hill.

Klain was an active adviser during the 2012 presidential campaign, leading intense debate prep sessions for Obama and Biden, and his wife, Monica Medina, served on the president’s transition team.

But his involvement in the loan deal for now-bankrupt solar energy firm Solyndra, coupled with the expected departure of his friend and top political strategist David Plouffe from the West Wing, could be strikes against his selection.

Nides, a deputy secretary of State and longtime congressional staffer, has pundits like the New York Post’s Kirsten Powers openly advocating for his pick.

Nides has reportedly told friends that he is interested in the job, and his wife — CNN's Washington deputy bureau chief, Virginia Mosely — is thought to be close with first lady Michelle Obama.

Strategists say the choice of either Klain or Nides would signal that the president was happy with the current culture of his administration — a reasonable stance after his comfortable electoral victory.

“I think it's smart to have people working with him that he trusts and have demonstrated that they're worthy of that trust,” said Tad Devine, a senior adviser to Gore’s and Sen. John Kerry’s (D-Mass.) presidential campaigns. “You pick someone new and stories appear in the press and you're not sure where they're coming from — that can be very distracting.”

Nancy-Ann DeParle, Alyssa Mastromonaco

No president has had a female chief of staff, which would make DeParle or Mastromonaco a historic pick.

DeParle serves as deputy chief of staff for policy and is a former director of the White House Office of Health Reform.

She could help the president as he works to implement his healthcare program and if he prioritizes women’s health issues in his second term.

Mastromonaco, the deputy chief of staff for operations, has been with Obama since he first became a senator in 2005 and is considered one of the president’s closest personal advisers.

Mastromonaco was heavily involved in the choice of Biden as the president’s running mate, and was a key player in the president’s first campaign effort.

“He’s certainly put a premium on diversity in his Cabinet and administration,” said one Democratic strategist. “He’s driven more by who’s best capable to get his goals accomplished, but it’s a consideration.”

Tom Donilon

The president's national security adviser is considered one of the Obama's most trusted aides, and a chief of staff with an extensive foreign policy could be valuable as tensions flare in the Middle East.

Donilon worked in the State Department during the Clinton administration and helped the Obama administration's strategy for Afghanistan. With the investigation into the terrorist attack in Benghazi dominating headlines and a looming conflict with Israel and Palestine heating up, his foreign policy experience could be seen as an asset.

Donilon also has family ties to the administration. He is married to Catherine Russell, Jill Biden's current chief of staff. Donilon's brother, Mike, is a political consultant to Joe Biden.