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.

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