31 August 2007

Tough choices

So Senator Larry Craig is apparently going to make an announcement soon about whether he intends to resign from the Senate, retire but serve out his term, or run for re-election.

That's not the tough choice I'm thinking of. The Republican National Committee supposedly discussed whether or not to officially urge Craig to step down, but decided against doing so. This would be fairly unprecedented; other Senators may call for it (some have), but for the party apparatus to do so is pretty significant. Why did they decide against? Tough to say. Reports speculate that Craig has already hinted he'll step down--and also that if the RNC went forward the move "could backfire." Because back home in Idaho the folks wouldn't take kindly to their Senator being told what to do by a bunch of party hacks in Washington.
Perhaps. Or perhaps there's more to think about after the jump.

Perhaps Idaho Governor Butch Otter (really) is hoping Craig will decide to serve out his term. It's no secret Otter has considered running for Craig's seat himself, and the betting money has been on Craig retiring for some time now, since long before the scandal broke (since before the incident in question even occurred). If Craig serves out the last year of his term, Otter runs for an open seat and, more than likely, no serious candidate in Idaho challenges him. Certainly there's no chance of the seat going to the Democrats.

On the other hand, if Craig resigns, Otter has to name a replacement, who will serve until an election can be held; in this case, the interim Senator would almost certainly serve until the November 2008 election, which would follow historical precedent. So, if Craig resigns, and Otter wants the seat, who does he name?

Governors have appointed themselves to the Senate in the past, usually by striking a deal with the Lt. Governor, then resigning and having the Lite Guv appoint them. This usually ends badly; historically most Governors who get themselves appointed to the Senate lose the next election (a suspiciously large number of them die before facing voters, too).

The next option is for Otter to appoint a "caretaker," someone who by agreement accepts the appointment on the understanding that he or she will not contest the next election. Dean Barkley, appointed by good ol' Jesse Ventura some years ago, was one of these. If he does this, of course, the voters will see right through him and know he selected someone for the seat not because of competence but because of a back room agreement. These sorts of things also tend to backfire.

Finally, Otter can appoint someone to the seat who will run for the next term in 2008, and either A) give up his plan of running for the Senate and accept that his role in life is to be governor for a while and then retire, B)appoint somebody he suspects is weak and then run against him, or C) hope the other Senate seat comes open in 2010 (not likely).

The Craig issue is played out. I want to see what Butch Otter is going to do. That's the real human-interest story here.

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