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Quitting The Day Job?

Now that Rudy Giuliani and John Edwards have thrown in their towels, it's roughly a 3/4 statistical chance that our next president will be a sitting United States senator -- the first since John F. Kennedy. And that raises some interesting questions.

Will Clinton, McCain, and/or Obama resign their Senate seat so they can devote their full attention to the race? Or will they keep their office as a "fall-back" position in case they lose?

Jack Kennedy didn't. He resigned only after the election, so a Kennedy loyalist could be appointed to "keep the seat warm" until 1962, when Teddy would be old enough to hold the seat.

In 1972, Senator George McGovern won the Democratic nomination, and kept his Senate seat while running for president -- and suffered one of the biggest landslides in history, winning only Massachusetts and the District of Columbia.

In 1996, Bob Dole challenged Bill Clinton for the presidency. Dole, then the Senate Majority Leader, resigned his seat -- largely, it is reported, because Democrats in the Senate kept pulling michief to distract him from campaigning.

In 2004, John Kerry was the Democratic nominee in what was then the longest primary season (now thoroughly eclipsed by the present one). Kerry held his seat, even though he ended up missing nearly every single roll-call vote in the last Senate session. (Given Kerry's politics, it can be argued that the people of Massachusetts were better served by his absence. But that's pretty much my "obligatory Massachusetts-bashing" talking. )

Vice-presidential nominees have had even more interesting histories. In 1988 and 2000, sitting Senators held down the lower half of the Democratic tickets. And both men -- Lloyd Bentsen and Joe Lieberman -- won re-election at the same time they lost the national race.

That shouldn't happen this time, though. Barack Obama and John McCain's terms don't end until 2010, and Hillary Clinton's until 2012.

But if they get the nomination (and let's face it -- Obama or Clinton WILL be the Democratic nominee, and McCain is the current Republican favorite), should they resign their Senate seat?

One wrinkle is the United States Constitution. By the 12th Amendment, Senate vacancies are filled by appointment by the state's governor. And with the balance of power in the Senate so close (49-49, with two "independents" who are Democrats in all but name), it is a given that any governor would appoint someone of their own party.

John McCain represents Arizona, and his governor is a Democrat. On the other hand, Hillary Clinton represents New York and Barack Obama Illinois -- two states also with Democratic governors, so their departure would not upset the political balance of the Senate.

OK, cheap digs time. I don't see any of the three Senators giving up their seats. It can be argued that replacing McCain with a Democrat wouldn't have a great deal of effect -- or might not even be noticeable. Hillary Clinton has never offered any consideration for anything but her own political benefit. And Barack Obama has spent pretty much his entire life on the public payroll; he's not likely to want to give it up and find gainful employment in the private sector (although he could use the experience).

But it's something that should be considered. A sitting senator has certain obligations, and those tend to get short shrift when the senator is busy campaigning for president. And it says something when a senator keeps their office while barely bothering to show up at it. Hell, under existing law, John Kerry should have had most of his Senate salary docked for blowing off most of the years 2003 and 2004, but no one had the testicular fortitude to push the issue.

It'll be interesting to see how this plays out -- and whether or not it becomes an issue.

I think it should.


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Comments (8)

It seems, for all intents a... (Below threshold)

It seems, for all intents and purposes, they've already given up part of their day jobs in favor of interviewing for another.

Votes missed in 110th Congress:
John McCain - 56.3% (or 251 votes)
Barack Obama - 37.7% (or 168 votes)
Hillary Clinton - 23.5% (or 105 votes)

Now granted, these are not all key votes on important issues, so it's important to see what votes they missed. You can see what votes they missed here.

I think the Constitution sh... (Below threshold)
Steve L.:

I think the Constitution should require current officeholders to resign their seats before entering the race for another office. If nothing else, it would cut down on the number of fringe candidates. They won't want to give up their seats knowing that they don't have a chance to cacth the bouquet.

One of the consequences of ... (Below threshold)
jpm100:

One of the consequences of so-called campaign finance reform is that incumbant politicians have an edge from the name recognician. So its no surprise that the top 2 contenders on both sides comprise 3 senators and one really rich guy.

Isn't it funny that one of those guys helped spearhead those laws?

You think Kerry's absence w... (Below threshold)

You think Kerry's absence was bad? New Mexico's governor (Bill Richardson) has been absent since he was elected, trying to become the next president. He said it wasn't a stepping stone, but he LIED to us, with no regrets.

Now he's back, trying to push through Hillarycare for New Mexico, ruining our already precarious health care system. Oh, and he has a funky beard.

I would love to see Romney ... (Below threshold)
Les Nessman:

I would love to see Romney ask McCain if he will step down during one of these televised debates.

If McCain is the nominee, h... (Below threshold)
Sean P:

If McCain is the nominee, he should step down immediately. This would force the governor to appoint the replacement immediately, which would mean the replacement would have to stand before the voters on November, 2008, at which time McCain is sure to have coattails to help the Republican candidate finish out his term. If he waits until after 08, the election will be in 2010, at which time McCain will not be on the ballot and, hence, no coattails.

Interesting factoid: Had John Kerry won, we'd be looking at the same situation, as a guy named Mitt somethingorother, and he was a Republican (even though he was pro choice and distanced himself from Reagan). Hey, whatever happened to that guy anyway?

"I think the Constitution s... (Below threshold)
John F Not Kerry:

"I think the Constitution should require current officeholders to resign their seats before entering the race for another office."

Posted by Steve L.

I have thought that way since I heard Lieberman was campaigning for VP and the Senate at the same time in 2000. If we are to ever get the federal government under control, it needs to be wrestled away from professional politicians who consider it their birthright to hold government office for as long as they please. These people brag about how much pork they can secure for their districts, and how only their level of influence can get things done. Bullshit! All that has ever accomplished is to drive America further into debt while these assholes keep piling uptheir pension money. A great gig if you can get it.

Jay, Arizona law states tha... (Below threshold)
Brad S:

Jay, Arizona law states that, in the event of a US Senate vacancy, the governor has to appoint someone from the party of the previous senator. In this case, Janet Napolitano would have to appoint a Republican.

Wyoming, Alaska, and Hawaii (to name three others) have the same sort of rules. Colorado has that rule when it comes to replacement of state legislators.




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