Attorney General Eric Holder has not publicly ruled out serving at least part of a second term if President Barack Obama wins re-election on November 6 and wants to keep him in place. Obama was to have filled the FBI job in 2011 but postponed the appointment, persuading Congress to extend the term of Director Robert Mueller by two years, until September 2013.
Campaign advisers to Republican challenger Mitt Romney have drawn up lists of potential nominees for both jobs, as well as for other Justice Department positions that require confirmation by the Senate, people familiar with the situation said.
Those discussed for attorney general in a Romney administration include former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, head of the Chertoff Group consulting firm; former Deputy Attorney General Mark Filip, since moved to the law firm Kirkland & Ellis; former White House Deputy Counsel David Leitch, general counsel at Ford Motor Co; and J. Michael Luttig, general counsel at Boeing Co.
Former deputy attorneys general George Terwilliger, who is joining the law firm Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, and Larry Thompson, general counsel at PepsiCo Inc, are also mentioned.
"The governor is focused solely on his job as chief executive of the commonwealth," said McDonnell spokesman Tucker Martin. Other possible candidates for both jobs declined to comment or did not respond to requests.
A Romney campaign spokeswoman had no comment on appointments.
WILL HOLDER GO?
Obama's decision for attorney general would be less pressing if he were to win a second term, because Holder could presumably stay on until a replacement is named. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano is most often mentioned as a possible successor to Holder.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, also frequently mentioned as a future Obama attorney general, brushed off Washington in an interview this month with the Financial Times. He told the newspaper that the politics-obsessed U.S. capital is "not quite my cup of tea."
Republicans have tried to push Holder from office because of Operation Fast and Furious, a botched operation that targeted gun smuggling along the United States-Mexico border. An inspector general report in September cleared Holder of wrongdoing.
Only one attorney general, Janet Reno during Bill Clinton's presidency, served close to two full terms in the modern era.
BROAD PORTFOLIO The appointments will give the election's winner two primary opportunities to enact his agenda. Democrats traditionally use the Justice Department to reinforce such areas as civil rights and consumer protection, while Republicans often emphasize drug enforcement and the vetting of nominees for federal courts.
The department determines which side the government will take in court on subjects such as same-sex marriage, abortion and affirmative action to secure racial diversity.
The contrasting priorities are rarely mentioned during the U.S. presidential campaign, despite the broad portfolio.
Democratic Vice President Joe Biden offered a rare indication of the stakes in July when he asked the NAACP, the largest U.S. civil rights group, to "imagine what the Romney Justice Department will look like."
The two sides are "fundamentally different," he said.
Republicans have accused Obama's Justice Department of improperly considering race in cases showing a "disparate impact" among racial groups, and of unfairly burdening business.
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani told a business conference on Wednesday that the Justice Department was taking too long on corporate investigations, creating uncertainty.
Only a "different view from the Justice Department" would improve matters, said Giuliani, a Republican who once served in the department's No. 3 position.