Reporter's Notebook: Gregg's Withdrawal Gives Bonnie Newman 'Fifth Beatle' Status

Bonnie Newman and Pete Best must be kindred spirits. They both stood on the precipice of history, but never quite made it over the line.

Best was the so-called "Fifth Beatle" (or one of them, anyway). Everyone's heard of John, Paul, George and Ringo. But Best is better known as the answer to a trivia question. He was the Beatles' drummer before they unceremoniously dumped him in favor of Ringo Starr in 1962 ... and promptly became superstars.

Like Best, Bonnie Newman will probably be a footnote.

She was the expected nominee to replace Judd Gregg in the Senate after he was tapped to be President Obama's commerce secretary.

But the best laid plans crumbled after Gregg abruptly withdrew his nomination Thursday and announced he would stay in the Senate representing New Hampshire until his term expires in early 2011.

Originally, Newsman was tapped to satisfy Gregg's demand that New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch appoint a fellow Republican to his seat so as not to skew the balance of power in the Senate.

Newman was far from a household name when the deal was struck. She worked as Gregg's chief of staff when he served in the House of Representatives and served in the administrations of Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush. And she was quietly warming up in the wings to serve in the Senate pending Gregg's confirmation.

Now, she's the Senate's "Fifth Beatle."

Perhaps it was someone's turn to miss the cut. After all, the Senate's already added a "Fab Four" to its ranks: Roland Burris to succeed President Obama, Ted Kaufman to take Vice President Biden's spot, Michael Bennet to replace Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Kristen Gillibrand to succeed Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Burris, Kaufman, Bennet and Gillibrand all successfully navigated the "Long and Winding Road" to Capitol Hill. But when Gregg withdrew, it was "Hello, Goodbye" for Newman.

Newman is the second person who was poised for a promotion to be undercut because the commerce secretary-designate dropped out.

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson was Obama's first choice for the post. And New Mexico Lt. Gov. Diane Denish was prepping to become her state's first female governor until Richardson bowed out due to a federal probe.

History and pop culture are rife with examples of people poised for fame, only to have those opportunities dashed at the last moment.

Notre Dame hired George O'Leary away from Georgia Tech in 2001 to be its head football coach. But O'Leary never coached a game for the Fighting Irish after the school determined he embellished his resume.

Anyone who's been near a TV in the past 43 years knows that James T. Kirk captains the starship Enterprise. But few are familiar with Kirk's predecessor, Captain Christopher Pike.

NBC failed to pick up the Star Trek pilot with Captain Pike. But network executives changed their minds when the second pilot featured William Shatner playing a new character, Captain Kirk. The success of Star Trek launched Shatner's career.

Meantime, Jeffrey Hunter, who played Captain Pike, was dispatched to play in B movies.

And he, too, became the stuff of trivia.