BP is widely expected to announce beleaguered CEO Tony Hayward's departure today or tomorrow, possibly replacing him with Robert Dudley, the American who replaced Hayward as the BP official in charge of the blown-out Gulf oil well. Whoever takes over from Hayward inherits a company with potentially enormous liabilities from the Gulf disaster, a depressed stock price, and persistent takeover rumors. How much would replacing the CEO help BP? (Watch an AP report about Hayward's possible exit)

Going American can't hurt: Picking its first non-Briton as CEO will "underscore how vital the United States has become to BP," even without dealing with the BP spill, say Jad Mouawad and Clifford Krauss in The New York Times. Also, Mississippi-born Dudley is "untainted" by BP's dodgy safety record, and his "consummate political skills" will be a plus in dealing with irate Gulf residents and U.S. officials alike, especially after Hayward's tone-deaf gaffes.
"BP is expected to replace chief with American"

Hayward's being scapegoated: Hayward will be forever "damned" for being in charge when Deepwater Horizon blew, says Douglas McIntyre in 24/7 Wall Street, but he's really "the fall guy" for his disastrous predecessor, Lord John Browne. Hayward's main sin would seem to be failing to reverse Browne's mistakes in his less than two years on the job. Maybe his successor will move quicker.
"The ghost of former CEO Lord Browne"

The markets already see Dudley as chief: In terms of the Gulf spill, "Dudley has been the face of BP's response for more than a month," says Bryan Walsh in Time, so "the change is unlikely to make a big difference" in the near term. Still, it will help BP that Dudley is "no stranger to conflict," having gone head to head with Vladimir Putin. And the good news is that the CEO swap probably means BP thinks the "active part of the spill over."
"Oil spill: Goodbye, Mr. Hayward"