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Daschle deflects Obama chief of staff speculation

Tom Daschle

Tom Daschle said Friday that reports he is a candidate to be President Obama's new chief of staff are unfounded.

Daschle, who was nominated by Obama to be secretary of Health and Human Services in 2008 but later withdrew from consideration, told The Daily Republic he is not interested in the White House post.

"Denis McDonough, who used to work with me; Ron Klain, who also worked with me; and Tom Nides, a good friend, are the men under consideration," Daschle said in an email from Tokyo, where he is studying high-speed rail to possibly bring such a system to the northeast United States.

"We should know soon," he said of the chief of staff selection.

Daschle, who served four terms as a South Dakota congressman (1979-1987) and three as a senator (1987-2005), has worked in Washington, D.C., for almost 40 years.

He was a staffer for Sen. Jim Abourezk, D-S.D., before winning a seat in the U.S. House in 1978. Daschle also considered presidential races in 2004 and 2008 but never entered a primary or caucus.

Several members of his staff have worked for Obama, both when Obama was a senator from Illinois and since he entered the White House. After the 2008 election, Obama picked Daschle to lead the HHS Department.

But revelations of more than $100,000 in unpaid taxes for the use of a private car and driver forced Daschle to drop out in February 2009. The Aberdeen native with a reputation as a smart, low-key guy who used to drive himself across South Dakota and stop in every county during his tenure in Congress was seen by his critics as a privileged insider.

His life in politics and government seemed at an end, and Daschle told The Daily Republic he no longer closely followed South Dakota politics. He did appear in the state a few times in 2012, and spoke at the funerals of Bill Janklow and George McGovern.

On Thursday, reports surfaced that Obama was again looking at Daschle to fill a key spot.

The Hill posted a blog suggesting Daschle, 65, would be an ideal choice to serve as Obama's latest chief of staff. Obama has had four chiefs of staff in his first term.

Obama nominated his current chief of staff, Jack Lew, to serve as secretary of the treasury on Thursday, as a typical cabinet shakeup takes place at the end of a first term.

Daschle is now a senior policy adviser at DLA Piper, a multinational law firm, and consultant to The Northeast Maglev, which derives its name from magnetic levitation.

The Northeast Maglev seeks to emulate Japan and develop high-speed trains that could zip along the East Coast.